THE BATTLE OVER THE INTERNET
KILL SWITCHES AND ICANN
In December, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski moved forward on formalizing the FCC’s 2004 net neutrality principles. The response was immediate. Verizon and Metro PCS rushed to file legal challenges to the rules but the FCC has moved to dismiss them because they filed their appeal before the rules were effective.
This move also infuriated Republicans in Congress, with leading net neutrality critic Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) accusing the FCC of “effectively nationalizing the Web” and promising that the new Republican Congress “will prove a swift antidote to the federal bloodsucker you found at your throat this Christmas.”
Last week the House Energy & Commerce Communications Subcommittee was set to vote on and approve a one sentence resolution repealing the regulations (which will likely pass the House the Representatives), but Democrats won a temporary reprieve. Democrats have vowed to fight the bill in the Senate.
One of the most controversial internet bills in debate is a bill offered by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) dubbed the “Internet Kill Switch” bill. While the bill expressly prohibits the creation of a kill switch (assuming it were even possible), Collins did not do herself any favors by introducing the bill at the same time as the Mubarak government shut down internet access throughout Egypt. Critics claim the bill still gives the President broad powers in the event of an “internet emergency”, but the President may already have that authority under some of the emergency provisions of the Federal Communications Act.
ICANN or UN-CAN?
While Democrats and Republicans fight about control over the internet, on an international level friction is growing over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) continued role over the internet’s domain system. Founded by the United States government in 1998, the US ceded exclusive control in 2009 to allow foreign governments a greater say in decision making. Russia and other countries are not satisfied with this move and would like the United Nations to have veto authority of ICANN decisions.
The first major test of ICANN’s responsive to concerns raised by other nations is in the current debate over new top level domains (“TLD”) such as “.gay” or “.xxx”. In an effort to block the Russian UN proposal from gaining traction, the US is supporting efforts by some countries to have a veto over the introduction of new TLDs. ICANN, however, is firmly opposed to any such veto authority.