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EU internet governance proposal raises US objections

Icann authority in jeopardy

An EU (European Union) proposal to create a new governing body for the internet has prompted objections from a bipartisan group of US lawmakers.

Four senior members of the US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter on Thursday to the Department of State and the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, urging the US government to maintain support for current internet governance.

Assignment of domain names should remain under US authority, with the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) continuing to have responsibility for allocating IP addresses, the four said.

“Given the internet’s importance to the world’s economy, it is essential that the underlying domain-name system remains stable and secure,” the letter said. “As such, the US should take no action that would have the potential to adversely impact the effective and efficient operation of the domain-name system. Therefore, the US should maintain its historic role in authorising changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file.”

In September, the EU split with the US by calling for a new international governing body for the internet. The EU proposal, which would create a new model for allocating IP number blocks, could take away much of Icann’s authority. The EU also called for a new forum to address internet policy issues.

A new international co-operative model is needed “because the internet is a global infrastructure”, according to Martin Selmayr, spokesman for EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding, speaking in September.

The letter from the four congressmen didn’t directly address the EU proposal, but it said the governance of the internet should not change. The lawmakers signing the letter were Joe Barton, a Texas Republican and the committee’s chairman; John Dingell of Michigan, the committee’s ranking Democrat; Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the committee’s internet subcommittee; and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat.

ITAA (the Information Technology Association of America), a US-based trade group, also said on Thursday it opposes the EU proposal. The proposal is an “anti-business position”, ITAA president Harris Miller said in a statement.

“Governmental interference threatens to undermine the innovative, robust nature of the internet,” Miller added. “Turning this process into political football between national governments is terrible play-calling – it certainly scores no points with the private sector. We owe the fast and widespread adoption of the internet to the current system of governance.”


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