A Congressional Move to Preserve Internet Freedom


Nathanael Bennett

November 17, 2014

2 min read

Free Speech



Last Spring, we told you about the Obama Administration’s plan to transfer control over key functions of the Internet to a multi-national body.  In response, more than 123,000 of you spoke out in opposition to the President’s plan, and in favor of the freedom that has been the hallmark of the Internet since its inception.

Fortunately, after hearing this tremendous outcry, it appeared that the Administration might be getting the message when it announced a possible delay in the transfer.  Unfortunately, as of today, there has been no extension of the contract between the Department of Commerce and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).  Without this extension, September 15, 2015 remains the date on which the transfer of key Internet functions will move to some other entity – in all likelihood, a multinational body.

However, Congress can – and should – intervene.  For example, Congressman Mike Kelly (R-PA) has introduced the Defending Internet Freedom Act of 2014.  This legislation instructs the Department of Commerce to renew its contract with ICANN until and unless a robust set of very specific criteria is certified.  Among these criteria is congressional verification that no foreign government or intergovernmental body will assume the authority that currently belongs to the Department of Commerce.

Additionally, Rep. Kelly’s bill would require that free speech protections that are at least as strong as the First Amendment be carried forward by any new governing entity.  This is especially critical given that the free and open nature of the Internet is precisely the reason it has flourished so dramatically.

Members of all political persuasions should follow Congressman Kelly’s lead and focus on this issue now, well in advance of the September 15, 2015 deadline.  Failure to do so carries with it the risk of an Internet that looks more like the closed versions that exist in Iran and China than the vibrant and free model that we all depend on today.