Thanks to the efforts of Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), on May 30 the House of Representatives defunded the Obama Internet giveaway in the FY 2015 Commerce Department appropriations bill by a 229 to 178 vote.
However, with the August recess already in full swing, the Senate appears unlikely to pass any appropriations bills this year. After all, it has not passed any yet and the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
Now, talk on Capitol Hill has shifted to passing yet another continuing resolution at current funding levels to avoid another government shutdown.
If that happens, it is game, set, match on the Internet giveaway. When Commerce’s contract with the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers ends in September 2015, if FY 2015 funding for the Commerce Department is already in place, it may be too late to use the appropriations process to stop the administration.
So, what should be done? House leaders need to include the Duffy defund in the upcoming continuing resolution. Considering the fact that the Senate has not passed its own Commerce appropriations bill, deference on appropriations matters — and their all-important riders — should be granted to the house of Congress that actually did its job.
Everything, including the Internet giveaway defund, needs to be on the table when newly minted House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) sits down with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
This is no trivial matter. Administering the Domain Name System (DNS) is the key function that associates easy-to-remember domain names to numerical Internet Protocol (IP) addresses — the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) — an essential component to making the Internet work.
The Obama administration believes that it can perform the transition without any vote in Congress. Yet, Article IV of the Constitution states, “The Congress shall have power to dispose of … property belonging to the United States.”
That ought to include the Internet functions, since under the Commerce Department’s current contract with the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) it states, “All deliverables under this contract become the property of the U.S. Government.”
The IANA functions themselves revert to the Commerce Department upon termination of the contract: “the Government may terminate the contract for default.” The contract even provides for the possibility of IANA being performed by another entity: “In the event the Government selects a successor contractor, the Contractor shall have a plan in place for transitioning each of the IANA functions to ensure an orderly transition while maintaining continuity and security of operations.”
Therefore, responsibility for the Internet’s names and numbers functions should remain with Commerce Department upon termination of the contract. But, Obama doesn’t care. He just wants to just give it away, in the process endangering the free and open Internet that has revolutionized communications and access to information throughout the world.
For, once free of the federal contract, ICANN will no longer be required to abide by the First Amendment, something Shari Steele, Staff Counsel at Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) warned of in 1998: “Internet administration has always guaranteed free speech and due process, since it has been done by U.S. Government contractors who are required to follow the U.S. Constitution. If the New IANA moves Internet administration out from under the U.S. Government, as there is general agreement to do, the public will lose these guarantees.”
Steele and the EFF were right then, and now, with the contract expiring in just one year, time is running out.
When the continuing resolution comes up again in September, House leaders need to stand up for the free and open Internet. Once we’ve lost it, we’ll never get it back.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.