On June 23, 2015, by a vote of 378-25, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 805, often referred to as the DOTCOM Act. The bill proposes to transfer the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to private control subject to congressional review of a proposal to be submitted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names (ICANN). ICANN’s proposed transition plan envisions the establishment of a separate organization to administer IANA. The organization would be related and accountable to ICANN. The details of the plan are being negotiated within the multistakeholder community.
On June 25, the Senate Commerce Committee approved an identical bill, S. 1551. If passed by the full Senate, the legislation would need to be signed by the President for enactment. Congress would have 30 days to review the final proposal when submitted and, ultimately, make a decision. Congress’s intent is to make clear that the transfer depends on strengthening ICANN’s overall accountability including its accountability to the business community and trademark owners for reliable, transparent and consistent governance and administration of critical policies and procedures. The recent controversy over allegations of misuse of the Trademark Clearing House and predatory pricing policies from registries under contract to ICANN has amplified the debate on accountability.
The IANA functions are the backbone of the Internet and are responsible for resolving domain names into numbers and numbers into domains. The IANA functions ensure that end users find the web sites that they are trying to reach. This includes allocating numbering resources, assigning and maintaining the technical details for the the operators of top level domains like .com and .net and managing the protocols that keep the Internet safe and running.
The issues surrounding the IANA transfer have raised debates within the public and private sectors regarding whether the United States, as the historic steward of the Internet, should give up oversight. Some have raised concerns of “capture” by regimes that may apply a heavier hand and stifle the freedoms of expression and commerce that have allowed the Internet to grow into the social and commercial powerhouse it has become. A well thought transition plan should ease some of these fears.
This 30-day review period would give the U.S. Congress time to deliberate and consult experts on the subject matter.