EU Internet governance proposal raises US objections

U.S. lawmakers oppose changes in Internet domain name governance proposed by the E.U.

A European Union proposal to create a new governing body for the Internet has prompted objections from a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers.

Four senior members of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter Thursday to the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration urging the U.S. government to maintain support for current Internet governance.

Assignment of domain names should remain under U.S. authority, with the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) continuing to have responsibility for allocating IP (Internet Protocol) addresses, the four said.

"Given the Internet's importance to the world's economy, it is essential that the underlying domain name system of the Internet remains stable and secure," the letter said. "As such, the United States should take no action that would have the potential to adversely impact the effective and efficient operation of the domain name system. Therefore, the United States should maintain its historic role in authorizing changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file."

In September, the E.U. split with the U.S. by calling for a new international governing body for the Internet. The E.U. proposal, which would create a new model for allocating IP number blocks, could take away much of ICANN's authority. The E.U. also called for a new forum to address Internet policy issues.

A new international cooperative model is needed because "the Internet is a global infrastructure," Martin Selmayr, spokesman for E.U. Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding, said in September.

The letter from the four U.S. congressmen didn't directly address the E.U. proposal, but it said the governance of the Internet should not change. The lawmakers signing the letter were Joe Barton, a Texas Republican and the committee's chairman; John Dingell of Michigan, the committee's ranking Democrat; Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the committee's Internet subcommittee; and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, the subcommittee's ranking Democrat.

The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), a U.S.-based trade group, also said Thursday it opposes the E.U. proposal. The E.U. proposal is an "anti-business position," ITAA President Harris Miller said in a statement.

"Governmental interference threatens to undermine the innovative, robust nature of the Internet," Miller added. "Turning this process into political football between national governments is terrible play calling -- it certainly scores no points with the private sector. We owe the fast and widespread adoption of the Internet to the current system of governance."

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