Senator John Thune on ICANN: “There is much oversight that Congress and my committee must do…”

As reported on internetcommerce.org

Senate Commerce Committee Plans ICANN Oversight Hearing

Elections do have consequences. Last year outgoing Senate Commerce Committee Chairman (D-WV) Jay Rockefeller resisted member requests to engage in oversight on the Obama Administration’s March 2014 announcement that it intended to end the U.S. counterparty role on the IANA functions contract and turn the responsibility over to the global multistakeholder community. But incoming Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) will soon be presiding over a full Committee oversight hearing on the matter, currently planned to take place the final week of February.

Speaking at a Wednesday, January 28th American Enterprise Institute program on “Tech policy 2015: The year ahead”, Chairman Thune has this to say about the IANA transition and ICANN:

Beyond just legislation, there is much oversight that Congress and my committee must do in the technology and communications space. For instance, I am keeping a very close eye on the issue of Internet governance. Last year the Administration announced it wants to give up oversight of ICANN and the IANA contract. If this transition is going to happen, it has to be done very carefully. We have to focus on ensuring that the Internet will remain open, stable, and secure. Russia, China, and the United Nations have all been trying for years to exert more control over the Internet, and we cannot let this process be hijacked by these regimes.

I have been working with Senator Marco Rubio to hold the Administration accountable to its promises and to urge ICANN to implement accountability reforms as part of the IANA transition process. If these goals cannot be met, the Administration should simply renew the IANA contract indefinitely. Keeping the Internet open and free from control by foreign governments is very important to my Republican colleagues, all of whom last year called for a hearing on this topic. At some point after ICANN’s February meeting in Singapore, I expect to hold a hearing with Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary Larry Strickling and ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade to discuss the status of the proposed IANA transition. (Emphasis added)

Committee staff have been reaching out to many interested parties for ideas on how the hearing should be structured and what its focus should be. In addition to the IANA transition, other ICANN and Internet governance issues may well arise such as the status and market acceptance of the new gTLD program, as well as Internet governance and the NETmundial Initiative. It’s also possible that Congress may decide it wants conditions for permitting the transition that go beyond those articulated by the Administration.

The Senate Commerce inquiry may be the first of several on this subject, with its House counterpart likely to hold its own hearing, as well as both Judiciary Committees. Collectively, they will inform the Congress and the public about what is occurring within the ICANN community as it works to develop integrated transition and accountability plans, as well as what is at stake for the global Internet community.

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