Cruz slams internet transition plan on Senate floor

Cruz slams internet transition plan on Senate floor
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate nearing deal on defense bill after setback Congress's goal in December: Avoid shutdown and default Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE (R-Texas) wasted no time on Thursday in hammering the Obama administration's deal to relinquish supervision of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on the Senate floor.

Cruz said President Obama’s decision “poses a significant threat to our freedom,” and that “it will empower countries like Russia, China and Iran to be able to censor speech on the internet.”


The administration’s deal with ICANN is up at the end of the month.  Instead of renewing the contract, the White House plans to cede oversight of the group to an international governing body.

The 162-country body that would have control of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) includes Russia, China and Iran. Supporters of the transition of IANA dismiss Cruz’s claims that a system of checks and balances and widespread oversight would protect minority interests from manipulating the internet in harmful ways.

Cruz said on Thursday that he isn’t convinced that an international regulatory body would be free from influences that could lead to internet censorship.

The senator also highlighted national security concerns.

“Congress has received no insurance from the government to keep dot-gov or dot-mil” domain names, he said, which could facilitate “foreign phishing scams.”

A national security expert on a pro-transition conference call refuted this, saying that the transition wouldn’t affect .mil or .gov names. According to the expert, these are already under the jurisdiction of the federal government and would remain there regardless of who controlled IANA. 

That expert also argued that U.S. supervision of ICANN and IANA would give some countries a political excuse to attempt to intervene in the affairs of the organizations, but that they would have no such leverage in the hands of an international body.

Cruz’s opposition to the handover includes his Protecting Internet Freedom Act, with press materials featuring an elaborate video and a countdown clock with a mission manifesto underneath it.

Next Wednesday, Cruz will hold a hearing on "Protecting Internet Freedom."

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate nearing deal on defense bill after setback Congress's goal in December: Avoid shutdown and default No deal in sight as Congress nears debt limit deadline MORE (R-S.D.) said Wednesday that it was likely he would use a past tactic of pursuing an appropriations rider to stop the transition.