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Sen. Cruz and Rep. Duffy Introduce the Protecting Internet Freedom Act

Bill prohibits Obama administration from unilaterally giving away the Internet

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) today introduced the Protecting Internet Freedom Act, which would prevent the Obama administration from giving the Internet away to a global organization that will allow over 160 foreign governments to have increased influence over the management and operation of the Internet.

The bill would ensure the continued protection of Internet freedom by prohibiting the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) from allowing the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions contract to expire, unless specifically authorized by Congress. The Protecting Internet Freedom Act would also ensure that the United States maintains sole ownership of the .gov and .mil top-level domains, which are vital to national security.

“The Obama administration is months away from deciding whether the United States Government will continue to provide oversight over core functions of the Internet and protect it from authoritarian regimes that view the Internet as a way to increase their influence and suppress freedom of speech,” Sen. Cruz said. “This issue threatens not only our personal liberties, but also our national security. We must act affirmatively to protect the Internet and the amazing engine for economic growth and opportunity the Internet has become, and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.”

“President Obama wants to hand over the keys to the Internet to countries like China and Russia,” said Congressman Duffy. “This is reckless and absurd. The governments of these countries do not value free speech. In fact, they censor the Internet and routinely repress and punish political dissidents. They cannot be trusted with something as fundamental to free speech as a free and open Internet. I will continue to fight President Obama’s irresponsible plan to surrender U.S. sovereignty of the Internet to the world’s worst actors and to protect our Constitutional right to free speech.” 

The Protecting Internet Freedom Act has received wide support from the technology and conservative communities:

“U.S. oversight has maintained an open and free Internet and there is no reason to doubt that that would continue if the current contract is extended to ensure that the new, substantially different ICANN will work as envisioned. Cruz’s legislation would provide an important Congressional check on the system to ensure that any transition is in the best interest of the U.S. and Internet freedom more broadly.”- Heritage Action

“The power of the Internet should be free, open, and available for all Americans and all the people of the world.  It should not be taxed, over-regulated, policed and/or spied on by Washington bureaucrats or bureaucrats overseas. The Cruz-Duffy legislation raises important questions as to how we best protect the Internet which has delivered great progress, promises more and threatens powerful interests--both political and economic.”- Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform

The Internet is far too important to rush this transition. Unfortunately, the Administration has viewed this transition as a cheap way to recover the global political credibility it lost because of the Snowden revelations and its own stubborn resistance to real surveillance reforms. They simply haven’t been willing to negotiate to protect ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model. Congress has already told NTIA to cease further work, and been ignored. It’s time to mandate Congressional approval of the transition. This would not only ensure more meaningful transparency and accountability mechanisms, it could also address two potentially catastrophic legal issues: First, if a U.S. court finds that the IANA function constituted government property, it could unwind the deal. Second, without a contractual link to the U.S. government, ICANN may be vulnerable to antitrust suits. If that happened, it would push the organization right into the hands of the ITU to regain antitrust immunity — and the Internet would fall under the sway of foreign governments.”- Berin Szóka, President, TechFreedom 

Regimes around the world are dangerously intent on squashing Internet freedom. We must be very careful not to allow them to extend their influence over the very core of the Internet. The Protecting Internet Freedom Act will ensure that the representatives of the American people in Congress are convinced of the airtight merits of any proposed transition plan before it advances. There is only one shot to get such a move right.” - Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO, National Religious Broadcasters 

In the wake of the announcement that ICANN’s multi-stakeholder architect Fade Chehade will be a senior advisor to the Chinese government which seeks to dismantle the ICANN governance system, it would be dangerous and foolhardy to proceed with the Internet transition until the full impact of Chehade’s changing sides has been taken into account.”- Rick Manning, President, Americans for Limited Government

Senator Cruz’s Protecting Internet Freedom Act is urgently needed to prevent the risk of a botched ICANN transition giving repressive foreign governments influence over the Internet’s domain name system.” – Phil Kerpen, President, American Commitment 

Proponents of the Internet give away tout a new “multi-stakeholder” model and use soothing terms like “bottom-up” and “consensus” that suggest everyone will work together for the greater good. But what they haven’t demonstrated is how an ICANN independent of the United States and our Constitution will remain independent of the Chinese, Russians, North Koreans, Iranians and others around the globe who are unfriendly to democratic values and have used violence to silence their political opposition. As long as the Internet is accountable to the American public through its government and bound by the U.S. Constitution, the Internet will continue to be a modern miracle of freedom.  We need every Representative and Senator in Congress to stand up for the American public and for free speech and guaranty that the Internet does not slowly become just one more technology controlled by despots.”- George Landrith, President, Frontiers of Freedom 

As it currently stands, the proposed IANA Stewardship Transition fails adequately to resolve several crucial issues necessary to ensure ICANN’s continued legitimacy. Despite all the seeming urgency to complete the transition, the work is far from finished — and that’s a problem. It’s one thing to leave some of the finer details to be worked out post-transition, but several fundamental governance issues remain outstanding, including ICANN’s ability to thwart threats of foreign government intrusion, its willingness and ability to ensure a basic level of contractual compliance and respect for property rights among registrars and registries, and its avoidance of antitrust liability risk. In short, it remains clear that ICANN has failed to meet its basic commitments for this transition. By mandating that Congress assess and approve the transition plan, the proposed bill will help to ensure that ICANN remains effective and accountable as it begins its existence as an independent entity.”- Kristian Stout, Associate Director for Innovation Policy, International Center for Law and Economics

Many among the global community do not respect the values which have allowed the Internet to prosper. Congress must ensure that authority over Internet governance is not granted to those who would undermine such an essential tool for expression and innovation.” - Andrew F. Quinlan, President, Center for Freedom and Prosperity 

The Obama Administration assures us that the surrender wouldn’t empower tyrannical foreign governments like Iran, North Korea or Cuba, but that’s precisely the result its scheme would have.  Among other things, foreign governments would obtain power to determine ICANN’s composition, and individual citizens and groups would possess no legal standing to protest.  Remember, this is the same Obama Administration that promised, ‘If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.’Timothy H. Lee, Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs, Center for Individual Freedom

The U.S. must carefully consider its role overseeing the Internet’s foundation before turning it over to an unaccountable organization.” – Fred Campbell, Director, Tech Knowledge 

The abdication of U.S. oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) would have serious consequences for our national security interests and Constitutional freedoms.   Such a move would diminish the role of the U.S. government in guaranteeing Internet freedom by 1) giving foreign governments, including hostile and authoritarian regimes, a greater say in Internet core operating functions, thereby increasing the risk that the Internet could be used as an instrument of warfare; and 2) further empowering foreign governments and non-governmental stakeholders, who are neither obligated to protect the First Amendment nor necessarily inclined to do so, to make decisions regarding Internet freedom that run counter to free speech.  It is grossly irresponsible for any president to jeopardize core American interests this way, particularly in the absence of explicit congressional authorization, which the Protecting Internet Freedom Act requires.” – Center for Security Policy

Relinquishing US control over ICANN and its freedom-preserving functions is perilous not just for America, but for the world.  The Congress – not the bureaucracy – should have final say on whether control over the Internet is ceded to any foreign entity.” - Tom Schatz, President, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Groups supporting the Protecting Internet Freedom Act include: Heritage Action, Americans for Tax Reform, National Religious Broadcasters, American Center for Law and Justice, Center for Security Policy, Americans for Limited Government, TechFreedom, Tech Knowledge, Protect Internet Freedom, American Consumer Institute, Less Government, International Center for Law & Economics, the Center for Individual Freedom, Center for Freedom and Prosperity, American Commitment, Frontiers of Freedom and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste. 

More information on the Protecting Internet Freedom Act can be found here. The full text of Senate version of the bill is available here.