Republicans renew attempts to delay internet domain handoff

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Republicans in Congress are again attempting to block the government’s plan to hand off oversight of the internet domain name system. 

A House Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday advanced a funding bill for Commerce, Justice and Science that included a provision barring the government from using funds to make the transition through 2017. 

{mosads}The language is nearly identical to similar policy riders that made their way into funding bills in the past few years. Officials have hoped to finish off the transition by late 2016, but those plans would likely have to be put on hold if the rider again gets added to a final funding deal that reaches President Obama’s desk. 

On the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) appears to be circulating a letter to colleagues pressing the head of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Association (NTIA) to delay the handoff amid concerns. 

While applauding the work done on the issue, Rubio’s letter, obtained by The Hill, notes that the transition will create an “untested” and “radically different” structure to govern the domain name system. 

Rubio’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

The NTIA has had oversight of the internet’s domain name system, which helps pair up numerical IP addresses with their familiar web addresses so people can easily navigate the internet. 

The government has long contracted that role out to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit group. In 2014, it announced a long-planned transition away from U.S. government oversight and tasked ICANN to lead the transition. 

In March, ICANN completed a roadmap to finish the transition. The Obama administration is currently reviewing the plan and hopes to determine whether it meets all of its requirements by next month

The administration has long said that it would not approve a plan that allows any other government or government-led body to wield broad leverage over the system. The administration also said it would only accept a plan that protects the open internet and the security and stability of the domain name system. 

The Senate letter being circulated warns that ICANN’s plan could give governments “new power and authority.” The letter also cautions that a number of details in the plan have yet to be developed, including human rights commitments. 

If the transition is not finished by the end of this year, the U.S. government can extend its contract with ICANN. The letter asks NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling to “consider an extension.”

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