Barring a miracle, the United States, with the blessing of President Barack Obama, is about to cede the last vestige of control over what has unquestionably been a U.S. invention — the internet.
At midnight tonight (Friday), the contract between the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the U.S. Department of Commerce will expire and ICANN, a California corporation organized in 1998, will become a self-governing international organization.
Sen. Ted Cruz has been leading a fight to retain the Commerce Department’s supervisory role by tying a transition block to a funding bill — but he was unable to muster the support he needed.
“In 22 short days, if Congress fails to act, the Obama administration intends to give away control of the internet to an international body akin to the United Nations,” the Texas Republican said on the Senate floor three weeks ago. “I rise today to discuss the significant, irreparable damage this proposed Internet giveaway could wreak not only on our nation, but on free speech across the world.”
His fear was that “countries like Russia, like China, like Iran to be able to censor speech on the internet,” an argument that recently drew support from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Former senator and current president of the Heritage Foundation Jim DeMint agrees with fears espoused by Cruz. He tweeted:
— Jim DeMint (@JimDeMint) September 26, 2016
Nonetheless Christopher Mondini, ICANN’s vice president for global business claims that the change will not effect the operation of the internet as it’s known today.
“This is a new kind of governance model,” he told the French news agency AFP.
Democratic lawmakers have also fired back that “the internet belongs to the world, not to Ted Cruz.”
No one doubts that Cruz doesn’t own the internet — he never said he did. But then again neither does the world.
Even if “imperfect,” the transfer of control should go as planned, according to Daniel Castro, vice president at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
“US government interference at this point would undermine global consensus and reduce confidence in the multi-stakeholder model at a time when these attributes are needed most,” he said in a blog post.
The transition “marks a key ‘constitutional moment’ for internet governance,” he added, “and the United States should ensure it is on the right side of history.”
For those old enough to remember, this is akin to something that happened nearly 40 years ago, when then-President Jimmy Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaty and Neutrality Treaty, relinquishing control of the canal to the Panamanians.
Carter sold out his country in 1977; Obama is a sellout today.
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