President Obama’s plan to “internationalize” the Internet may be unconstitutional, key members of Congress are claiming.
The group of lawmakers sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office last week, saying the plan to relinquish oversight of Internet domain name functions to a global, multi-stakeholder body raised questions about the administration’s “authority to transfer possession and control of critical components of the Internet’s infrastructure to a third party.”
The letter was signed by the chairmen of both congressional judiciary committees, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va; presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Issa is also a former chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
The lawmakers point out that the Constitution says “Congress has the exclusive power ‘to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States.'”
The Internet’s root zone file was developed by a grant from the United States, and since 1997, it has been operated by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration under contract with the Department of Commerce. The department had planned to transfer its management rights to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, an international agency, by this Wednesday, but announced this summer that the date would be postponed until roughly June 30 next year.
In their letter, the lawmakers asked the GAO whether transferring ownership of the Internet domain name functions would cause government property to be transferred to ICANN, whether the root zone file constituted U.S. property, and whether it was constitutional for that property to be transferred to any non-federal entity.
The lawmakers did not provide a deadline for answers, saying that the GAO would need to “conduct both significant audit work and complex legal analysis” in order to respond.