By Kate Tummarello - 03/17/14 10:27 AM EDT
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) commended the Commerce Department's move to relinquish control over the technical system that manages Web addresses and said it should remain out of the hands of other governments.
The Internet "doesn't need a nanny state, or a collection of nanny states, trying to stifle it," Thune said.
"It needs — and deserves — a strong multi-stakeholder system free from the control of any government or governmental entity."
Late on Friday, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that it would begin taking steps to give up oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which manages the technical side of the Internet's domain name system.
Currently, the Commerce agency oversees that system, but it is maintained by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) — a nonprofit that manages the ownership of domain names — under a contract with the U.S. government that must be renewed every two years.
Under the transition process announced Friday, ICANN will convene stakeholders to put together a proposal to transfer oversight of the Commerce agency's technical system by the time the current contract expires in 2014.
While some worry that the NTIA's move could result in more involvement in the technical management of the Internet from countries that have historically sought to censor the Web, others say the decision to transfer management is a step toward a more global Internet.
Thune commended the move away from Commerce Department management but warned that his committee will be watching to ensure the other governments or governmental groups don't use the transition to seek more control over the Internet.
"There are people who want to see the Internet fall into the grip of the U.N. or who would allow ICANN to become an unaccountable organization with the power to control the Internet, and we cannot allow them to determine how this process plays out," he said.
He called on "all stakeholders who believe in an open and innovative Internet to participate in the conversation" about managing the technical system being facilitated by ICANN.