House panel to examine Internet governance

The House Commerce Committee will hold a hearing next month to examine the Obama administration's recent move to relinquish oversight of the technical back end of the Internet, the committee announced Tuesday.

"Changes to the current model should be approached with a cautious and careful eye," Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairmen of the House Commerce Committee and the Commerce Subcommittee on Technology, said in a joint statement.


The hearing comes after last week's announcement by the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration that it will relinquish its oversight role of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which manages the technical side of the Internet's domain name system.

The Commerce agency is looking to move away from the current system — under which the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) operates IANA under a contract with the U.S. government — to one where an entity run by global stakeholders has ultimate oversight over IANA.

Critics of the decision to relinquish its oversight role say the Commerce agency is giving foreign governments a chance to seize control of the Internet, while supporters say the move will lead to a more globalized Internet.

Walden and Upton said they "welcome a thoughtful discussion amongst Internet stakeholders" but "have many questions, and look forward to a thorough examination" during a hearing set to take place during the first week in April.

"The Internet changed the world, and we must ensure the world does not change the Internet,” which "has thrived across the globe under the existing multi-stakeholder effort, and should serve as a guide for the future," the pair said.

Some members of the committee have already expressed vocal support and opposition to the Commerce agency's announcement.

Committee Vice Chairman Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Senate Judiciary to vote on subpoena for Twitter CEO next week MORE (R-Tenn.) said on Monday that the move is "another hostile step by the administration" that threatens free speech.

On the other hand, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) applauded the Commerce agency, saying that global management of the Internet by stakeholders "is essential to preserving a global Internet driven by choice, competition and innovation, and making it a revolutionary tool for commerce and freedom of expression."