GOP bill keeps US Internet control

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) has proposed legislation that would block the federal government from handing over control of the Internet management system.

Back in March, the Department of Commerce said it would begin to cede control over the system that operates the Internet's domain name system. That system is now controlled by the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

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The NTIA said it would continue to oversee the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) through September 2015, but then it would ease out of the role.

That announcement led to immediate criticism that the move would reduce the control the U.S. has over Internet functions and increase the risk that Internet freedom could slip away without that U.S. influence. Duffy's bill, H.R. 4398, says flatly that the NTIA cannot cede its control.

"As Americans, we value our constitutional right of freedom of speech and have promoted this value throughout the world," he said in a statement to The Hill. "We should not give up our stewardship of the Internet so that the United Nations or countries like China or Russia, that do not hold free speech in the same regard, can have the opportunity to take control."

Duffy's bill is the Global Internet Freedom (GIF) Act. The two-page legislation says the assistant secretary of Commerce for communications and information "may not relinquish the responsibility of the National Telecommunications and information Administration with respect to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority Functions."