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Facebook, Google urge Congress to hand over internet control

Engadget logo Engadget 13/09/2016 Steve Dent
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On October 1st, the US is supposed to hand the "keys" of the internet to ICANN, and Congress is not happy about it. The mostly Republican lawmakers, led by Ted Cruz, feel that ceding control will stifle online freedom and give power to authoritarian governments. However, technology companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter penned an open letter to Congress, urging lawmakers to hand internet domain control to the international community as promised.

The final proposal, drafted by "proud and active members of the internet community," goes well beyond the US Commerce Department's original criteria, set in 2014, according to the document. "Furthermore, crucial safeguards are in place to protect human rights, including the freedom of speech," it adds.

A global, interoperable and stable Internet is essential for our economic and national security, and we remain committed to completing the nearly twenty year transition to ... [a] model that will best serve U.S. interests.

The internet is currently controlled by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and has been since its birth. However, many nations are understandably skittish about full US control over what is, after all, the "World Wide Web." As such, the US agreed to cede control to ICANN, an international body with representatives from academia, government agencies like NASA, corporations and protocol bodies like the Internet Systems Consortium.

Congress will hold a hearing on the handover tomorrow, September 14th. Cruz is expected to grill the NTIA and ICANN on whether they're fully prepared to deal with censorship attempts by China, Russia and other authoritarian nations. In support of Cruz, Senator Orrin Hatch said earlier this week, "charging ahead with the transition now could undermine internet freedom."

However, the tech companies wrote that the transition is "ready to be executed," and that it's "imperative" that Congress not hold it up. "A global, interoperable and stable Internet is essential for our economic and national security, and we remain committed to completing the nearly twenty year transition to ... [a] model that will best serve U.S. interests."

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