Let it go: It’s time for global, multistakeholder oversight of the internet

The U.S. government’s contract with ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is set to expire September 30, 2016.  The U.S. Congress has a crucial decision: whether to accept the recommendation of the global multistakeholder community and allow the contract to expire — or delay the transfer yet again and feed the appetite of governments hungry to censor and control the internet.

Access Now has signed a joint letter urging the U.S. Congress not to delay (PDF).

Countless, diverse stakeholders from technical, human rights, corporate, and other communities contributed two years of work to creating a consensus plan for the IANA transition. This consensus plan from the global community met the standards for transition set by the U.S. National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), which last month put its weight firmly in favor of the proposal.

Delaying the transition would tell the world that the U.S. government doesn’t trust the multistakeholder processes that produced the consensus. This statement by Congress would contradict the support three U.S. presidents have given to privatizing the internet domain name system (DNS), and the U.S. government’s consistent call for inclusive internet governance. More importantly, though, delays signal to governments seeking to take over the internet that the time to strike is now. If the U.S. won’t let its contract with ICANN go — as its own technical experts at NTIA recommend — it becomes more likely that other governments will restrict what we say and do online. Human rights risks increase as the transition is further delayed.

The U.S. Congress should listen to the technical experts, who know how the internet works, and proceed with the transition.