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
“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.