The recent decision from the Commerce Department' NTIA to relinquish oversight of the Internet's domain assignments via contract with ICANN is not something that should be overlooked. The fact of the matter is, if we try to hand over the fundamental functioning of the Internet to a yet to be identified entity, there could be dire consequences. As it stands right now the Obama Administration has no set guidelines as to how this process should take place.
Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL-15) introduced the DOTCOM Act in order to go over the realistic outcomes that could result from the Commerce Department decision. The DOTCOM Act provides a common sense outline for approaching such a big decision. By giving up our power to ensure the freedom on the Internet, we are committing to a decision that cannot be reversed.
In a letter sent to Shimkus and Upton showing support for the DOTCOM Act, Americans for Tax Reform President, Grover Norquist, sited some of the major harms that could result from a cancelation of the NTIA's roll:
"ICANN is similar to the “White Pages” of the Internet, but without oversight, without clear guidelines for a structural transfer, there is no guarantee that it will remain in this narrow function. In establishing domain names, ICANN has the ability to blackmail businesses and threaten intellectual property. Senator Rockefeller was correct when he spoke out against the “.SUCKS” extension. …
"Companies would have to buy up all iterations of their domain names in order to maintain their trademarks, brands, and consumer accountability. ICANN could set these prices without and backstop, setting domain names at remarkable prices that would indeed truly inhibit the freedom that Internet connectivity has engendered."
Those who believe that the DOTCOM Act is a waste of time don’t really understand the full scope of the situation. Such misunderstanding is seen in a letter to Chairman Upton from the Commerce Department which asserts that the DOTCOM Act would be interfering with the plan of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to make this transition that has been 16-years in the making. Yes, this idea is not a surprise, but if it is to take place there should be a plan, which, in the last 16 years, has not been created. Furthermore, Congress is certainly not interfering with the NTIA's function. The NTIA answers to the direction of Congress and not the other way around.
Constituents can visit here to learn more about this unplanned transfer of power, and show their support for the DOTCOM Act and Internet freedom by emailing their Representative.
To relinquish the contractual control over the internet that we have today without a plan could lead to organizations like ICANN abusing their powers. Particularly, if it were under the majority influence of any number of nations that censor the Internet.
As a country we advocate for the free flow of information over the Internet but simply relinquishing our authority with effectively do the opposite.