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Dept. of Commerce Accused of Catering to Special Interests

The International Congress of Independent Internet Users (ICIIU) this week sent a letter to top goverment officials, accusing the U.S. Department of Commerce and its National Telecommunications and Information Administration of being engaged in an illicit process to turn over regulatory control of the Internet to special interests.

The letter was sent to Janet Reno and Joel Klein at the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Inspector General, the U.S. General Services Administration and the G.A.O, and the House and Senate Appropriations, Ethics, and Commerce Committees. The group believes that the Commerce Dept. to be in violation of the NTIA's White Paper on the Internet, and of federal antitrust, administrative, and contracting laws.

ICIIU's letter states, "they are using incorrectly granted government contracts to escape debate, accountability, and Congressional oversight." The group contends that the use of the U.S. government's contracting authority is illegal, since the regulation of communications is "not a service or good within the meaning of the laws that define the federal government's purchasing power," and cites Purchase Order No. 40S8NT067D20 (NTIA/ICANN). This purchase order is for the delegation of Internet address allocation authority, and ICIIU believes it is in violation of Federal Acquisition Regulations (48 CFR Chapter 1 ), for these reasons:

  1. no competitors were allowed to bid for the contract
  2. the offer was not publicly made
  3. it was not put out for bids
  4. ICIIU believes that the service being contracted is not a service, but rather a regulatory function that falls under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which means that it cannot be contracted without Congressional legislation, and is not within the charter of the NTIA
  5. the contractor's (NTIA's) representative, Beckwith Burr, played a large part in the formation of ICANN, the recipient of the contract
  6. Burr is personally acquainted with the companies and individuals financing the recipient, ICANN, and helped its acquisition of the contract
  7. Burr has not made sure that the recipient, ICANN, conformed to the contract requirements of the NTIA
  8. Burr sits on an advisory committee of ICANN (the Governmental Advisory Committee [GAC]), which is a "per se organizational conflict"
  9. the CEO of ICANN, president Michael Roberts, is the representative of an organization (EDUCAUSE), whose contracting services with ICANN fall within those subject to Purchase Order No. 40S8NT067D20, and he is therefore in conflict of interests with the award
  10. members of ICANN's Board of Directors are representatives of special interests, including IBM, that will have an unfair competitive advantage in controlling the contracted Internet services
For additional information on ICIIU's protest, visit ICIIU's homepage.