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Fox News baselessly claimed that the Obama administration plans to give up control of a key Internet administrator to the United Nations,ignoring Obama administration officials' repeated insistence that it will not let a governmental organization run the agency.
On the April 10 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, guest co-host Gregg Jarrett claimed that the Obama administration was to "give up" direct oversight of the Internet and "transfer control to an international body controlled by foreign governments." Guest Jordan Sekulow agreed, claiming that the Obama administration plans to cede control of the Internet to the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Jarrett advanced Fox's previous distortion of the plan, falsely suggesting that nations like China and Russia may now be able to control the Internet and that the plan would lead to the U.N. taxing the Internet. Sekulow agreed, saying that the ITU "is run by dictators" and "authoritative regimes."
But there is no evidence to support Jarrett's claim that the U.S. intends to give control of ICANN, the agency that administers the Internet's Domain Name System (DNS), to the ITU. In a March 14 press release, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) announced it will proceed with a 1998 plan to transition U.S. control over ICANN to a multi-stakeholder body, explicitly stating that "NTIA will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution."
In his April 10 congressional testimony, Commerce Department assistant secretary Lawrence Strickling reaffirmed the U.S. government's commitment that no government or inter-governmental body would control ICANN [emphasis added]:
STRICKLING: We need to ensure that the broad Internet community--companies, technical groups, civil society and governments--continue to work together as equal partners in crafting the rules of the road for the Internet through the multistakeholder model. Some authoritarian regimes however do not accept this model and seek to move Internet governance issues, including the DNS, into the United Nations system in order to exert influence and control over the Internet.
Some have argued that what NTIA is doing is tantamount to "giving away the Internet".That could not be further from the truth. There is no one party--government or industry,including the U.S. Government--that controls the Internet. The Internet is a decentralize dnetwork of networks. What we have in fact done, is demonstrate leadership and strategic vision by laying out a framework with clear conditions to finalize a process that has been ongoing for 16 years.
With the March 14 announcement, NTIA has taken the next step in the 16-year process to privatize the coordination and management of the DNS. ICANN last month began the process of convening stakeholders for the first of many public discussions on this topic. During this period, NTIA's role will remain unchanged. As we have said repeatedly, we will not accept a transition plan that would replace the NTIA role with one led by governments or an inter-governmental organizationand we have established a framework of four principles that the process must address. This must be a careful and thoughtful process. If a plan that meets these criteria cannot be implemented by September 30, 2015, we can extend the contract for up to four years.
Further, Internet experts have stated that the U.S. plan to relinquish control of ICANN actually weakens the power of the ITU. Politico quoted Nick Ashton-Hart, the Geneva representative for the Computer & Communications Industry Association and a former ICANN official, as saying that "If the U.S. was to try and maintain the master key, it would have been more likely to result in the fragmentation of the Internet," because other countries could claim a similar role. Politico also quoted Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) stating that if the federal government hadn't relinquished its oversight, the ITU could continue to argue that ICANN functioned as a pawn for the U.S. government.