May 29, 2014
by Kate Tummarello, The Hill

Two groups representing tech industry giants are asking lawmakers to give the administration funding to carry out its controversial plan to relinquish oversight of key technical Internet functions.

That administration move is a “critical transition” that needs full funding to be carried out successfully, the Internet Association and the Information Technology Industry Council said in a Wednesday letter.

The Internet Association includes Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Amazon. The Information Technology Industry Council includes Google, Apple, Microsoft and IBM. 

In the letter, the groups ask House members to oppose a provision in the Commerce Department’s authorization bill that would reduce funding for the agency.

That bill is being considered on the House floor this week.

Earlier this year, the Commerce Department announced it would be stepping back from its oversight role of the technical side of the Internet’s Web address system.

While supporters hailed the move as a step toward a more global Internet, critics including Republicans on Capitol Hill expressed concerns that the decision to step back from the U.S.’s Internet management role would allow oppressive governments to seize control of the Internet.

Last week, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which included an amendment that would require the Commerce Department to delay its plans until the Government Accountability Office conducts a study on the oversight transition.

As the Commerce Department funding bill moved through the lower chamber this week, Republicans said the bill included a reduced amount of funding over concerns about this oversight transition.

Reducing the agency’s funding “would significantly impede” the “important undertaking” of carrying out the Internet oversight transition, the tech groups said in their Wednesday letter.

“A successful transition will require months and perhaps years of careful planning and execution, as well as a steady commitment of resources to achieve the desired outcome,” the groups wrote.

“Any disruption in resources would be detrimental to this goal.”

The tech industry groups said they share lawmakers’ concerns about allowing other governments to seize control over the Internet, but pointed to statements from the administration pledging to keep that from happening.

“We strongly support the U.S. Government’s opposition to any proposal that would replace [the agency’s] role with a government-led, multilateral, or inter-governmental organization solution,” the letter said.

While the transition should be watched closely, Congress should allow the administration to go forward with its plans if it supports “an open, stable and secure Internet,” the groups wrote.

“As Congress deliberates, the world watches to see whether as a nation we are truly committed to the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance.”

The groups pledged their “full support in working with you to ensure that the Internet remains a vital engine of innovation and job creation for America and the world.” 

This article can also be found in The Hill.