The Communications and Technology Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), today advanced H.R. 4342, the Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters (DOTCOM) Act of 2014. The legislation, authored by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) and cosponsored by ten members of the full committee, was approved by a vote of 16 to 10.
"This good government bill is a common sense approach to an incredibly complex issue," said Walden. "Make no mistake about it, as recently as a week ago, we saw a foreign government turn off Twitter and YouTube ahead of an election in an effort to silence that government's critics. We know what China has done to silence dissent, and we've read the statements of Vladimir Putin who wants to use the powers of the ITU to control the Internet. These threats are real."
"Full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) added, "This is a question of domestic U.S. policy and good government. Our interest and engagement in this process should exceed those nations who censor their citizens and desire to control the web. We must take our time and ensure that any successor to NTIA holds the same values we have instilled in the Internet and will resist efforts by governments to take control of the root zone. Once we transfer this oversight role away, there's no going back."
The DOTCOM Act was drafted by Shimkus in response to the Obama administration's recent proposal regarding the future of the Internet. The administration's proposal instructs the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to explore ways to remove the United States from its oversight role of the Domain Name System (DNS) and replace it with a different multistakeholder governance model. The DOTCOM Act directs the Government Accountability Office to study the proposed changes and present a non-partisan evaluation before the administration may take action to modify the current DNS.
"The reality is it would be irresponsible for NTIA to move forward without carefully considering the national security implications of this transfer. The administration says it won't move to a "multistakeholder model' that could compromise the openness of the Internet today, but they need to explain to Congress and the American people how they'll guarantee a new multistakeholder regime won't be influenced by foreign governments or the ITU tomorrow," said Shimkus. "We only get one chance to get this right. Let's pass the DOTCOM Act and make sure we do."
Walden concluded, "Getting the facts and understanding the consequences of such a change in Internet management is the responsible action for us to take. It is what the American people expect us to do. We cannot take the administration's proposal on blind faith. The future of the Internet is literally at stake."