Dotcom Act Would Require Deal Review

Posted May 18, 2015 at 12:23pm

House Republicans are pushing legislation, known as the Dotcom Act, that aims to give Congress a say in the terms of the handover of the Internet’s address system to international stakeholders.

The bill, by John Shimkus of Illinois, would give the Government Accountability Office a year to review any transition plan before the Commerce Department could relinquish its contract with a California nonprofit group that manages the domain name system to the stakeholders, which include nonprofit Internet experts, corporate executives and government officials.

The bill would also give Congress time to step in if it doesn’t like the terms of the deal. The House approved it last year as an amendment to the defense authorization bill, but it was not included in the final law.

Shimkus said Congress needs “to exercise vigorous oversight on the transition and make sure it’s done right.” But Democrats object to the one-year delay in the transition that the bill would require, and also the second-guessing it would permit.

“Inserting a unilateral role for our government, as the Dotcom Act does, undermines the legitimacy of the multi-stakeholder model and it emboldens those who don’t agree with us,” said California Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, referring to foreign governments.

Democrats also note that Republicans have already asked the GAO to study how the transition could affect U.S. national security, the soundness of the Internet address system and the conditions Commerce has placed on the transition. It would be better, they argue, for GAO to issue that study soon and submit it to the stakeholders before the transition plan is finalized.