The U.S. government is preparing to hand over full control of the Internet to international authorities in just under two months, allowing the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to decide the future of the web for the first time in the Internet’s history.
The Department of Commerce will finalize the transition on October 1, Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling confirmed on Tuesday.
The move means the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which is responsible for interpreting numerical addresses on the Web to a readable language, will move from U.S. control to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, ICANN, a multi-stakeholder body that includes countries like China and Russia.
Critics of the move, most prominently Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, have pointed out the agency could be used by totalitarian governments to shut down the Web around the globe, either in whole or in part.
Opponents similarly made the case that Congress has passed legislation to prohibit the federal government from using tax dollars to allow the transition, and pointed out that the feds are constitutionally prohibited from transferring federal property without approval from Congress. A coalition of 25 advocacy groups like Americans for Tax Reform, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Heritage Action sent a letter to Congress making those points last week.
While those issues could, in theory, lead to a legal challenge being filed in the days following the transfer, the administration has expressed a desire to finish it before the president leaves office, a position that Strickling reiterated.
“This multi-stakeholder model is the key reason why the Internet has grown and thrived as a dynamic platform for innovation, economic growth and free expression,” Strickling wrote. “We appreciate the hard work and dedication of all the stakeholders involved in this effort and look forward to their continuing engagement.”
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