Chamber of Commerce defends US Internet oversight shift

The Chamber of Commerce is encouraging lawmakers to let the Commerce Department go forward with its controversial plans to relinquish its oversight role of technical Internet functions.

In a letter to lawmakers on Tuesday, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Bruce Josten asked that the House not use the Commerce Department’s funding to constrain the administration’s Internet governance plans.

ADVERTISEMENT
The agency “should be allowed to take any needed steps to achieve the cautiousness and transparency that we agree is essential for a safe and smooth transition,” Josten wrote.

Earlier this year, the Commerce Department announced that it would be moving forward with steps to relinquish its oversight role of the technical side of the Internet’s Web address system.

While some, including tech companies and Democrats on Capitol Hill, hailed the move as a step toward a more global Internet, critics slammed the administration, saying that the decision could open the door for more oppressive governments to take a greater role in managing the Internet.

Last week, the House passed as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act a measure that would keep Commerce from moving forward with its oversight shift until the Government Accountability Office conducts a study on the move and possible outcomes.

The House is set to consider this week an appropriations bill that includes funding for the Commerce Department.

That bill, as noted when reported out of the House Appropriations Committee, does not include funding to facilitate the oversight shift due to lawmaker concerns.

In its Tuesday letter, the Chamber of Commerce warned lawmakers against keeping the funding from the agency.

“Any hindering of [the agency’s] ability to conduct the proper levels of due diligence through the use of currently available resources could result in harm to U.S. businesses and Internet users as a whole,” the letter said.

The Chamber of Commerce also pushed back on Republican concerns that the administration’s move could lead to other governments having outsized control over the Internet.

The agency “has steadfastly opposed a transition to any mechanism that would deviate from the current multistakeholder model of Internet governance,” the group wrote.