House Republicans move to block Internet management switch

A group of House Republicans introduced a bill Thursday that would prohibit the Obama administration from moving forward with its announced plans to relinquish oversight of the technical side of the Internet's Web address system.

"America shouldn’t surrender its leadership on the world stage to a ‘multistakeholder model’ that’s controlled by foreign governments," Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnCalifornia companies sued for allegedly selling fetal tissue for profit Race is on for prized House chairmanship GOP struggles to find women to lead House committees MORE (R-Tenn.), one of six cosponsors of the Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters, or DOTCOM, Act.

Other co-sponsors are Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), Joe Barton (R-Texas), Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.).

The bill from House Republicans comes after the Department of Commerce announced earlier this month it would begin a process to hand over its oversight role of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which manages the technical side of Internet's the domain name system, to a hypothetical global, multistakeholder entity.

While some praised the move as a step toward a more globalized Internet, critics say it could open the door for influence by foreign governments looking to change the open nature of the Internet.

Shimkus pointed to recent attempts from Turkey, China and Russia to clamp down on free speech online.

“This isn’t a theoretical debate," he said in a statement. "There are real authoritarian governments in the world today who have no tolerance for the free flow of information and ideas."

The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which currently oversees the IANA, defended its decision to relinquish its oversight role.

The agency "has made clear that the transition proposal must have broad support and reflect the four key principles we outlined in our announcement" and "has repeatedly said that we will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or inter-governmental solution," a spokeswoman said in a statement.

"Before any transition takes place, the businesses, civil society and technical experts of the Internet must present a plan that ensures the uninterrupted, stable functioning of the Internet and its present openness."

The House Republican bill would require a review of the Internet management transition before the Commerce Department agency could proceed with its plans. Blackburn called on the administration to report "to Congress before they can take any steps that would turn over control of the Internet."

"We can’t let the Internet turn into another Russian land grab," she said. 

— This story was updated at on March 28 at 9:30 a.m.