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May 27, 2014

Amendment Would Prevent Administration from Relinquishing Control of the Internet

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Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) will offer an amendment tomorrow to the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) appropriations bill that would prohibit any funds from being used to relinquish control of the remaining root functions of the Internet to a multistakeholder organization, as is currently planned.

IPI has previously expressed our deep concerns that, while it is true that transferring those functions to the multistakeholder organization imagined by the administration would not mean those functions were subject to political control or United Nations control, it is probably inevitable that such an organization would eventually succumb to pressure. I've mentioned examples such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the World Meterological Organization (WMO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as similar multistakeholder organizations designed to support a purely technical mission but that became UN organizations and thus subject to the domination of the UN bureaucracy, UN organizational rules, etc.

There is no compelling reason why any of those organizations needed to be within the UN system, but they ended up there. They had specialized, technical functions but now are subject to political mischief because they are part of the UN system. There's every reason to think the same thing will eventually happen to the Internet functions if the U.S. surrenders them, especially since the UN already claims the right to be involved in Internet issues through both the ITU and the Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

IPI was on a panel a few weeks ago discussing this topic, and the CSPAN video is archived here. And if you don't want to watch the video, I blogged on my participation at that event here.

So, while what is currently planned and underway is not transferring control of the Internet to the UN, there is every reason to believe that will be the eventual result. And there is every reason to be very, very concerned about that result.

Congress is right to assert itself in this regard, and to prevent the administration from acting unilaterally to take what is almost certainly a bad step for the Internet.

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