Greatest Hits, No. 14: Obama to hand over control of the Internet — created by the U.S. military — on Oct. 1

by WorldTribune Staff, August 18, 2016

President Barack Obama is set to relinquish the last vestiges of U.S. control of the Internet.

Barring “any significant impediment” the Department of Commerce will finalize the transition effective Oct. 1, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Strickling said on Aug. 16.

The Commerce Department has given its OK to transfer oversight of the internet gatekeeping functions from the U.S. government to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). /AP
The Commerce Department has given its OK to transfer oversight of the Internet gatekeeping functions from the U.S. government to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). /AP

The U.S. Department of Defense awarded contracts as early as the 1960s for packet network systems, including the development of the first network to use what became known as the Internet Protocol, according to Wikipedia.

“The move means the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which is responsible for interpreting numerical addresses on the Web to a readable language, will move from U.S. control to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a multi-stakeholder body based in Los Angeles that includes countries such as China and Russia,” the Washington Examiner reported.

Critics say the Internet agency could be used by totalitarian governments to shut down the Web around the globe, either in whole or in part.

“The proposal will significantly increase the power of foreign governments over the internet, expand ICANN’s historical core mission by creating a gateway to content regulation, and embolden [its] leadership to act without any real accountability,” Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, wrote in a letter sent to Commerce and signed by two fellow Republicans, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.

In the event any facilities are relocated to China, the senators noted, they could go in the same building as the agency responsible for censoring that country’s internet.

“We have uncovered that ICANN’s Beijing office is actually located within the same building as the Cyberspace Administration of China, which is the central agency within the Chinese government’s censorship regime,” they wrote, noting that some of the American companies involved with the transition process have already “shown a willingness to acquiesce” to Chinese demands to aid with censorship.

“While this is certainly not illegal, it does raise significant concerns as to the increased influence of governments … as well as the culture of cronyism,” the senators added.

Congress has passed legislation to prohibit the Obama administration from using tax dollars to allow the transition, and pointed out that the feds are constitutionally prohibited from transferring federal property without approval from Congress.

Also, according to the Washington Examiner report, a “coalition of 25 advocacy groups including Americans for Tax Reform, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Heritage Action sent a letter to Congress making those points last week. A fourth, Americans for Limited Government, joined that letter and issued a separate statement calling for Congress to sue in the event the transfer moves forward.”

“While those issues could, in theory, lead to a legal challenge being filed in the days following the transfer, the administration has expressed a desire to finish it” before Obama leaves office, the Examiner report said.

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