U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will convene a hearing on Wednesday, February 25, 2015, entitled “Preserving the Multistakeholder Model of Internet Governance.”
As the U.S. government considers relinquishing control over certain aspects of Internet governance to the private sector, concerns remain that the loss of U.S. involvement over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) could empower foreign powers – acting through intergovernmental institutions or other surrogates – to gain increased control over critical Internet functions. Featuring testimony from the U.S. government official assessing the threat to the Internet and the CEO of the organization that currently manages the Internet’s system of unique identifiers via contract with the U.S. government, the hearing will examine the potential benefits and preparedness of non-governmental actors to protect Internet governance functions from attempted interference by foreign governments.
• Mr. Fadi Chehadé, CEO, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN);
• Ambassador David Gross, Partner, Wiley Rein LLP, and former U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, U.S. Department of State; and
• Mr. Lawrence Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), U.S. Department of Commerce.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation full committee hearing entitled “Preserving the Multistakeholder Model of Internet Governance”
This hearing will take place in Senate Russell Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements and a live video of the hearing will be available here.
For reporters interested in reserving a seat, please contact the press gallery:
• Periodical Press Gallery – 202-224-0265
• Radio/Television Gallery – 202-224-6421
• Press Photographers Gallery – 202-224-6548
• Daily Press Gallery – 202-224-0241
Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid or service, including closed captioning service for the webcast hearing, should contact Stephanie Gamache at 202-224-5511 at least three business days in advance of the hearing date.
Chairman John Thune
"Today we convene the Committee to evaluate the multistakeholder system of Internet governance.
"There has been no shortage of activity in this space in recent years, as I’m sure each of our panelists can attest.
"The goal of everyone here is the same: we want one, global Internet that is not fragmented nor hijacked by authoritarian regimes.
"The question is, how do we get there?
"This is the Commerce Committee’s first hearing on Internet governance in quite some time.
"But this is not the beginning of our oversight on this issue.
"Following last year’s announcement by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of its intent to transfer the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, or IANA, functions to the global multistakeholder community, Senator Rubio and I led 33 of our Senate colleagues on an oversight letter to NTIA about the proposed transition.
"We stated our support for the current bottom-up, multistakeholder approach to Internet governance, and stressed the importance of standing firm on the administration’s promise that it would not accept a proposal that replaces NTIA’s role with a government-led or inter-governmental solution.
"We encouraged the multistakeholder community to act deliberately and transparently as it puts together a transition proposal.
"That remains as true today as when we first said it.
"In July, Senator Rubio and I weighed in on proposals to reform ICANN, via the “Enhancing ICANN Accountability” work stream, to support specific accountability measures that we believe must be achieved before any transition of the IANA functions.
"We continue to believe the stakeholder community should demand robust and significant accountability reforms, such as curtailing governmental involvement in apolitical governance matters; requiring a higher vote threshold for the ICANN Board when making major decisions; providing additional oversight tools to the multistakeholder community; and adopting an independent dispute resolution process.
"Administrator Strickling has encouraged the multistakeholder community to address how to remove board members and how to incorporate current accountability tools like the Affirmation of Commitments reviews.
"I completely agree.
"This morning we will hear from a mostly government panel about how best to ensure the multistakeholder model.
"But the private sector and civil society are active on this issue as well, and as the IANA transition process moves forward it may be appropriate for the Committee to dive deeper and hear from stakeholders who require an open and secure Internet to create jobs and grow our economy.
"If an IANA transition plan is presented to NTIA, I will scrutinize that plan to make sure it both meets the requirements laid out by NTIA and adopts meaningful accountability reforms that Senator Rubio and I have called for.
"Administrator Strickling has been very clear that accountability reforms go hand in glove with a transition plan, and I pledge that I’ll hold the administration accountable for the “red lines” it has established throughout this process.
"In particular, I will be interested to see whether the stakeholder community can deliver a proposal that allows Internet users to continue to have faith the IANA functions are carried out effectively and seamlessly.
"And I’ll focus on the adequacy of the accountability reforms in any proposal.
"Some worry that, in the absence of U.S. involvement in the IANA functions, ICANN may be subject to capture by authoritarian regimes, and these are valid concerns.
"But I also worry that, in the absence of the contract with the U.S government, ICANN could become an organization like FIFA – the international soccer organization that is flush with cash, unresponsive to those it supposedly serves, and accountable to no one.
"The ICANN Board can demonstrate its own commitment to the multistakeholder model by accepting the stakeholder community’s proposed reforms, even if that means lessening the board’s powers in some areas.
"The multistakeholder community has one opportunity to get this right because the Internet is too important for democracy, world culture, and the interconnected global economy to allow poor governance to jeopardize its future.
"The mantra for all of us should be ‘measure twice, cut once.'
"We have a distinguished panel here today to share their experience and views. I’m looking forward to hearing from each of you."
Ranking Member Bill Nelson
Thank you Chairman Thune for holding this hearing today.
The Internet is one of our country’s great research and development success stories. With the support of the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies, a small community of computer researchers worked for many years to develop the technology and standards necessary to allow computer users on different networks to easily share digital information with each other. Those standards still lie at the heart of the Internet today.
While the Internet may have had its birth here in the United States, it has quickly transformed the entire world. That’s why the U.S. government began nearly two decades ago to take steps to transfer control of the technical and operational aspects of the Internet to the private citizens, businesses, and institutions that were rapidly adopting it across the globe.
It was that effort that led to ICANN. I strongly support the multistakeholder model that ICANN, as an institution, represents: one in which the Internet’s diverse stakeholders can come together and make sure that the Internet remains a free, open, and global network.
I also support the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) announcement last year that it would complete the work of privatizing the technical elements of the Internet begun in 1998. I know that there are legitimate concerns about this transition. Many of those will be discussed during this hearing, but NTIA has been handling this transition in the right way. For example, NTIA has made clear that these functions may not be handed over to another government or an inter-governmental body.
That is a critical precondition for the transition. In addition, the transition must preserve and protect the security, the stability and the openness that everyone has come to expect from the Internet. I will be watching this issue closely.
NTIA also has embraced parallel efforts to make sure ICANN remains accountable to the global Internet community. Such efforts will give stakeholders the confidence they need to develop an effective transition plan.
Finally, it is important to note that the United States Congress and the administration have always spoken with a united voice in support of the multistakeholder model to international Internet governance.
We may disagree on how best to protect consumers, ensure public safety, or promote competition in our domestic laws and regulations, but that disagreement should end at our borders.
We must continue to send a powerful signal to the rest of the world that the U.S. is committed to the multistakeholder model of international Internet governance – that we really do believe in a free and open Internet and want to preserve and advance the current multistakeholder model of global Internet governance.
I want to thank the witnesses for appearing before the committee today and for their thoughtful comments on these issues. I look forward to hearing your testimony.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Fadi ChehadéCEOInternet Corporation for Assigned Name and Numbers (ICANN)
Ambassador David GrossPartner, Wiley Rein LLP, and former U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, U.S. Department of State
Mr. Lawrence StricklingAssistant Secretary for Communications and Information and AdministratorNational Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), U.S. Department of Commerce