NTIA escapes IANA spending restriction in Senate spend Bill

UPDATE: I am not going to rewrite this blog post. However, since writing it earlier today, I learned that there was a late addition — a “managers’ package” — added to the bill prior to passage. That new language, offered by Senator Johanns, adds a requirement that Senate Commerce receive 7 days advance notice of any NTIA decision on the IANA transition.  by Thomas O’Toole for bna.com

Here is the text of the new language:

On page 24 of the report, in the paragraph beginning with “Internet,” strike the sentence beginning with “While” and replace with:

“While NTIA has stated that it will not accept a proposal that includes government-led or intergovernmental control over ICANN the committee directs NTIA to conduct a thorough review and analysis of any proposed transition of the IANA contract. This review shall ensure that ICANN has in place a NTIA approved multi-stakeholder oversight plan that is insulated from foreign government and inter-governmental control. Further, the committee directs NTIA to report quarterly to the committee on all aspects of the privatization process and further directs NTIA to inform the committee, as well as the committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, not less than 7 days in advance of any decision with respect to a successor contract.”

 The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved the Fiscal Year 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. It appears that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has been spared, for the time being, yet another congressional attempt to slow down NTIA’s planned transition of its supervisory role over key DNS administration functions now performed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

The CJS spending bill approved in the House contained the so-called Duffy Amendment, which would withhold from NTIA federal funds used to oversee and negotiate the terms of NTIA’s planned tranfer of IANA supervisory task to global, multi-stakeholder entity.

NTIA and ICANN lobbyists must have been working furiously to keep similar language out of the Senate CJS spending bill. It appears that they succeeded.

In the Senate CJS spending bill approved today, the committee expressed concern about the IANA transition plan, but stopped short of withholding funds to carry it out. Instead, the committee asked for a quarterly report on the IANA transition.

The committee also complained that NTIA has not been a strong advocate for American companies and consumers within the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee. It noted that an earlier-requested report on NTIA’s activities within the GAC is overdue.

Outside of the IANA and ICANN business, the committee rejected a $7.5 million NTIA request for the purpose of creating a new, federal Internet Policy Center. That work should be supported by existing funds, the committee observed.

Here’s the text of the relevant passage:

Internet Policy Center. The Committee is concerned with the proposed creation of the Internet Policy Center [IPC], which would require an additional $7,500,000 and 11 employees to coordinate policy development within the Government related to the Internet and telecommunications infrastructure, technology, and services. As the lead agency for the Federal Government representing the Nation’s interests in the governance and operations of the Internet, such activities should already be undertaken by NTIA as part of that responsibility. Should NTIA choose to initiate the IPC, or parts of the IPC, the agency may only do so from within funds pro-vided and shall identify such activities in the agency’s spending plan to the Committee. Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. [ICANN I. The Committee remains concerned that the Department of Commerce, through NTIA, has not been a strong advocate for American companies and consumers and urges greater participation and advocacy within the Governmental Advisory Committee [GAC] and any other mechanisms within ICANN in which NTIA is a participant. The Committee strongly encourages NTIA to be an active supporter for the interests of the Nation within ICANN and to ensure that the principles of accountability, transparency, security, and stability of the Internet are maintained for consumers, business, and the Government. The Committee awaits the past due report on NTIA’s plans for greater involvement in the GAC and the efforts it is undertaking to protect U.S. consumers, companies, and intellectual property.

Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. The Committee under-stands NTIA’s plans to transition the agency’s technical stewardship of the Internet Assigned Names Authority [IANA] and is asking ICANN to convene a multi-stakeholder process to develop a transition plan that will maintain an open, transparent, and inter-nationally supported process. However, the Committee is concerned that NTIA’s move could lead to other government or inter-govern-mental control over IANA and subsequently the Internet. While NTIA has stated that it will not accept a proposal that includes government-led or intergovernmental control over ICANN, the Committee directs NTIA to report quarterly to the Committee on all aspects of the privatization process. In working with NTIA, the Committee’s oversight intends to preserve the underlying principle of free speech, and ensure that the Internet remains open to allow for innovation, freedom, and empowerment for all.

FirstNet. The Committee supports the transfer of $1,400,000 from FirstNet to the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General for the purposes of oversight and accountability of FirstNet. The Committee encourages FirstNet to report on the cost efficiencies of using deployable and self-contained architectures that operate with and without backhaul capabilities which include fiber, microwave, and satellite services in FirstNet deployment.

The CJS spending bill is just one of the places where IANA transfer landmines have been placed. The other is the Department of Defense spending bill, a measure that the Senate Appropriations Committee has not acted on yet. In the House, the DOTCOM Act was attached to the defense spending bill prior to passage. The DOTCOM Act would require the Government Accountability Office to study whatever IANA transition plan was produced by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and accepted by NTIA. Senate action on the defense spending bill should come within the next few weeks.

Differences between the House and Senate spending bills will need to be ironed out in a conference committee later this summer. The conference committee could accept either the House or the Senate’s approach to providing oversight to NTIA’s activities.

The 2015 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2014.

Phil Corwin has been blogging quite a bit of good information about this issue over at the Internet Commerce Association website. He has a good summary of what has been going on lately in this post, Second House Amendment Ups the Stakes on IANA Transition.

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