House passes bill giving Congress more say in Internet transition

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The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed the DOTCOM Act, 378-25, giving Congress the right to review the move away from an American-controlled Internet domain name system to one overseen by the international community.

"By advancing the DOTCOM Act, we are ensuring that the Internet‚ the world’s greatest platform of ideas, commerce, and social connection‚ continues to thrive to the benefit of folks in Michigan and every corner of the country,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement.

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“This legislation makes clear that the Administration shall not proceed without first answering to Congress,” said Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chair Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) in a statement. “Our oversight of the transition adds a vital check to this process, and emphasizes that the United States takes this transition seriously.”

The White House-backed transition plan would see the Department of Commerce end its longstanding contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for managing the domain name system through the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.

Authority over the system would be taken up by a group of international stakeholders.

The bill gives lawmakers 30 days to review the proposed plan for the transition to determine whether it aligns with a variety of principles and requirements.

Lawmakers worry the transition could place the domain name system, a cornerstone of the Internet, under the control of an authoritarian foreign government. They’ve also said that they don’t think ICANN is ready for the transition.

“I’ve said time and again that this is far too important to rush,” said Rep. John Shimkus (R-Il.), a sponsor of the bill.

If it becomes law, the legislation could take the place of a more drastic measure included in an appropriations bill that was passed by the House earlier this month: stopping any federal funds from going to the transition.

"Unlike the appropriations rider, the DOTCOM Act providers a real opportunity for congressional oversight." said House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.).

Now, the legislation moves to the Senate — where the Commerce Committee is scheduled to mark up its version of the bill Thursday. Committee Chair John ThuneJohn ThuneGOP senator on Trump’s VP hunt: 'I know nothing’ Week ahead: Senate panel takes up location data bill Republicans question Trump's trip to Scotland MORE (R-S.D.) called the House bill the “right approach” Tuesday and said lawmakers in the upper chamber would “try to get floor action on it as soon as we can”.

It’s a significant week for the transition. ICANN officials are meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they are laying out more details of the planned change.

Even those who support the plan have said it is unlikely the transition will be complete by the time the Department of Commerce’s contract with ICANN expires in September. Extensions to the contract could push the process into 2016.