The U.S Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is transferring oversight of the Internet to a ‘private’ nonprofit group called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on October 1. This means the Internet will move from U.S. control to a ‘multistakeholder’ group that includes 160 foreign governments and nongovernmental organizations.
The term ‘multistakeholder’ is troubling as it is most often part of the language used in U.N. programs like Agenda 21. This means that the agency could be used by foreign governments or the U.N. itself to shut down the Web around the globe, either in whole or in part.
Since ICANN already manages the domain naming and IP address systems, the transfer would give it full regulatory control as well. Also worth noting is the fact that ICANN already charges fees to users and that as a ‘nonprofit,’ it earned $219 million last year.
Alarming is the knowledge that shifting ICANN’s legal status away from the U.S. was a top agenda item for an ICANN working-group meeting in Helsinki on June 26.
The internet is one of the few places where, with some notable exceptions, free speech still reigns supreme. So what will happen when ICANN has the freedom to raise fees with no oversight?
Furthermore the facilities could, without notice, be relocated to say — China — and could go in the same building as the Communist agency responsible for censoring that country’s Internet since some of the American companies involved with the transition process have already given into Chinese demands to aid with censorship.
Besides, President Obama’s plan to end U.S. oversight without congressional approval is unconstitutional. Congress must authorize transfers of U.S. property, which includes the ICANN domain system, worth billions of dollars.
If the courts later rule that Obama’s action violated the separation of powers, there will be no remedy as control over the system will be gone forever, thus handing authoritarian regimes the power they have long sought to censor the web globally, including in America.
Meanwhile, the “Protecting Internet Freedom Act” was introduced in Congress last month with the hope of reinforcing the separation of powers clause. But like most other constitutional side-steps, Obama plans to acted unilaterally and then by fiat you and I can kiss the last true realm of free speech goodbye.