House panel adds requirements to ICANN transition

A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee has approved a bill that would add new requirements before a government agency ends its oversight of ICANN, the coordinator of the Internet’s domain name system.

The goal of the Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters (DOTCOM) Act is to safeguard Internet users and ensure a smooth transition away from U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) oversight of ICANN’s key domain-name functions, supporters said.

Wednesday’s voice vote approving the DOTCOM Act in the Internet subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sends the bill to the full committee for action.

The NTIA announced in March 2014 that it planned to end its oversight of ICANN’s Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) late this year, but many Republicans have resisted that move, fearing control of ICANN could fall into the hands of other governments. Most Democrats supported the move, saying it’s time to show the rest of the world that the U.S. doesn’t exert undue influence over ICANN.

IANA is responsible for the global coordination of the DNS Root, IP addressing, and other Internet protocol resources.

An earlier version of the Republican-sponsored DOTCOM Act would have delayed the transition for a year, and many Republicans voted to pull funding for the transition from NTIA in an appropriations bill passed on the House floor earlier this month.

But earlier this week, Republicans and Democrats on the Internet subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced compromise language for the DOTCOM Act that would allow the transition to go forward while adding some requirements for NTIA.

The bill represents a good alternative to pulling funding for NTIA, said Representative Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican and subcommittee chairman. The bill would “improve the odds of a successful transition and protect the Internet that we are committed to protecting,” he said.

The bill will help ICANN resist any takeover attempts by other governments or intergovernmental organizations, added Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat.

“In carrying out the IANA transition, I wholeheartedly agree with my colleagues that there must be built-in mechanisms for transparency and accountability, and a commitment by ICANN to resist any expansion of the role governments or intergovernmental organizations may play in ICANN’s deliberations,” she said.

Adding to NTIA requirements for the transition, the DOTCOM Act would require the NTIA to submit a report to Congress certifying that the transition plans meet the U.S. government’s objective of global Internet openness.

The bill would also require NTIA to certify that its proposed changes to ICANN’s bylaws, meant to ensure multi-stakeholder control of the organization, have been implemented, and that safeguards to make ICANN more accountable to the Internet community are in place.

The bill would also give Congress 30 legislative days to review NTIA’s report before the agency ends its IANA role.

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