House defunds Internet giveaway—again

“I think they see now that this is actually a good thing for the Internet.”

That was Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) CEO Fadi Chehade, declaring to Reuters that congressional opposition to an Obama administration plan to transfer key Internet names and numbers authorities from the Department of Commerce was fading.

Chehade added, “I am optimistic and I believe that all interests are now aligned… Everybody sees that this makes sense.”

There is only one problem.

Within a day of the statement, the U.S. House of Representatives voted once again to deny funds to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to perform the transfer.

Section 536 of the now-passed $51 billion Commerce, Science, and Justice appropriations bill states, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to relinquish the responsibility of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration with respect to Internet domain name system functions, including responsibility with respect to the authoritative root zone file and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions.”

Similar language was enacted last year, defunding the Internet giveaway through September 30, 2015. The new language would make the prohibition permanent, keeping Internet governance under Commerce Department oversight for the foreseeable future.

As for Chehade, he clearly has no idea what is actually happening on Capitol Hill. Did anyone even tell him the defund was in the Commerce bill? Does he even know?

Or perhaps he just doesn’t think Congress matters.

In May, Chehade proclaimed that the transition of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration would be complete by the end of 2015.

The statement prompted backlash from one critic of the Internet governance transfer, Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning.

“While Congress has defunded all NTIA actions to transition the IANA functions to ICANN or anybody else, Chehade thinks he is the king of the Internet by seducing countries around the world to support his coup,” Manning said.

Manning continued, “Chehade needs to understand one simple thing: The IANA functions are the property of the U.S. government. Says it right in the contract. He is a contractor. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Manning urged Congress to renew the contract temporarily while reengaging “an open bidding process for the long term for other candidates who will not actively work against U.S. interests.”

Which, with House action now to stamp out the Internet giveaway once and for all, a contract renewal may be the administration’s only option at the end of the day.

Yet, the White House has issued a veto threat of the appropriations bill. In its statement, the administration said, “The Administration strongly objects to the provision that prevents the National Telecommunications and Information Administration from using funds to relinquish its responsibility with respect to internet domain name system functions, a commitment the U.S. Government made more than a decade ago.”

But when push came to shove on the continuing resolution last year, the defund language was included, likely at the insistence of House negotiators. And Obama did not veto it.

Meaning, neither Obama’s idle threats nor Chehade’s out-of-touch delusions should discourage Congress from acting to protect U.S. interests in a free and open Internet. There is too much at stake.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.