RealTime IT News

House Votes For U.S.-Governed Internet

On a 423-0 vote Wednesday the U.S. House of Representatives approved a "Sense of the Congress" resolution to keep the Internet in U.S. control. The resolution carries no weight of law and only expresses the House's opinion.

Rep. John Doolittle of California's 4th District introduced the resolution Oct. 18 to stress his position that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) should remain under U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) oversight and the authoritative root zone server stay in the U.S.

The vote by the House, with the Senate concurring, also gives the Bush administration ammunition to fend off any more calls for an international Internet governance body under the authority of the United Nations or other inter-governmental body.

"By approving this resolution we are sending a clear message to the U.N. and urging the Bush Administration to remain firm in its position that existing structures must continue to be maintained by the U.S. in order to preserve the stability and security of the Internet," Doolittle said in a statement.

The vote comes a day after the U.N. agreed to back off from any plans to create an international version of ICANN under its authority. Instead, the organization will launch an Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to work with ICANN on issues affecting the Internet such as spam, cybercrime and universal access.

The agreement, however, is fairly broad in interpretation and it's uncertain how it could evolve in the coming years. It calls on the U.N. Secretary-General to assess the IGF, after consultation, within the next five years to decide whether to continue with the forum or scrap it.

Conceivably, that could lead to another showdown with a U.S. that isn't controlled by the current administration.

While ICANN had been working to become an organization separate from the U.S., it wasn't until recently that the U.S. has decided to stay in control.

In July, Michael Gallagher, assistant Commerce Secretary, said the agency planned to retain its veto power over ICANN to ensure the security and stability of the Internet's DNS .

A Commerce Department under new management at the end of President Bush's term could decide to reverse its reversal at that time and let ICANN separate into a standalone international organization.

The U.S. Senate also has a resolution similar to the one voted on in the House Wednesday. Introduced by Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota Oct. 17, it calls on the president to oppose any effort to transfer control to the U.N. or any other international entity, according to the text of the resolution.

While Coleman was pleased with the results of the agreement this week, which reaffirmed the United States' historic role in creating and maintaining the Internet, he reiterated the need for U.S. control.

"Even with this victory, it is important that we remain vigilant in making sure that the Internet is protected from the U.N. or some other unaccountable international body that would greatly compromise the benefits we enjoy from the Internet today," he said in a statement Wednesday.