May 25, 2016

Don't give away the Internet's First Amendment

FAIRFAX Va. Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning issued the following statement in advance of testimony he delivered Tuesday to the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee opposing a proposal by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to give up U.S. government oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions:

"One of the justifications for giving away U.S. oversight of the Internet's naming conventions is to prevent a supposed fragmentation of the Internet. However, even the Obama administration admits that China is already fragmenting the Internet with its own root zone no matter what the U.S. and ICANN choose to do. Given that Internet fragmentation is a fact, proceeding with Obama's reckless Internet transition is a solution in search of a problem and should be rejected due to its negative impacts on the free and open Internet.

"A private entity has no legal responsibility to uphold First Amendment freedoms of speech and of the press and of religion, so post-transition, there would be no constitutional protection in federal courts afforded to holders of domains using terms like liberty, should China or any other entity prevail in a censorship gambit.

"Moreover, nowhere in the multistakeholder proposal does it actually address the obvious antitrust concerns that arise with ICANN being the world's only resolver of IP addresses and domain names, even though such lawsuits were anticipated in the 1998 Clinton Administration statement of policy that helped to establish ICANN. Either the lawsuits that begin after U.S. oversight and ICANN's antitrust exemption go away will result in a fragmented Internet, or worse, one where ICANN and whoever controls it wielding absolute control over the Internet's naming conventions."

To view online:

Testimony of Richard Manning, President, Americans for Limited Government, Before the Committee On Commerce, Science, & Transportation United States Senate Hearing entitled Examining the Multistakeholder Plan for Transitioning the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, May 24, 2016