On March 23, the National Institute of Standards and Technology awarded a $18,690 sole-source contract to the President and Fellows of Harvard College to review a Commerce Department proposal to relinquish the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
There’s only one problem. Congress defunded the Commerce Department from relinquishing the IANA functions in the omnibus spending bill.
So how exactly can the Commerce Department be giving out a taxpayer-funded no-bid contract to review the Internet domain name system functions giveaway that Commerce is prohibited from even executing?
“Congress has defunded the Internet giveaway three times now, but still work continues,” Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning noted in a statement.
By one account, Commerce has already agreed to it. “What they have agreed is a plan for ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, to end direct U.S. government oversight control of administering the internet and commit permanently to a slightly mysterious model of global ‘multi-stakeholderism,’” writes the Guardian’s Maria Farrell in an article, “Quietly, symbolically, U.S. control of the internet was just ended.”
Again, behind closed doors, the Obama Commerce Department is quietly agreeing to do the very thing Congress said couldn’t happen.
“If Congress’ Article One power of the purse is so easily ignored by the executive branch without adverse recourse, Congress has little reason to exist,” Manning remarked
The online federal listing for the no-bid contract even claimed at first that “Congress has mandated the review prior to NTIA transitioning its stewardship of certain Internet technical functions to the global multistakeholder community…” Then they had to amend it after a Senate complained. Why?
Congress never actually mandated any review of the transition. What a mess.
As a matter of fact, Manning added, “Congress has denied funds to engage in the transition. Thus it lacks funds to even consider the transition, let alone executing various stages of the proposal to prepare the transition.”
Manning continued with an analogy, “Imagine if Congress defunded a house from being built, and so the agency comes in, builds the foundation, builds the walls, puts on the roof and the doors and windows in, gets plumbing and other utilities all lined up, but doesn’t put the doorbell on it, and says it’s not a house. “
“That’s where we are with the Internet giveaway, where Congress mandated that no funds be spent in the transfer, but the proposal was produced and finalized with the Commerce Department’s participation and funding anyway,” Manning concluded.
All in a rush to turn over control of Internet governance to the international community. This is the exact kind of travesty that has the American people outraged, independent pollster Pat Caddell noted recently at a press briefing with Americans for Limited Government’s Rick Manning.
“You want to see something really stirring the American people?” Caddell teased, adding, “Because everyone’s on the Internet and we’re going to give it up — the thing we invented, basically, the thing we have managed to the fairness and free speech of everyone — we’re going to give it to the Chinese? No.”
And for Republicans in Congress running for reelection, who have the choice of either defunding the Internet giveaway in the continuing resolution in September, or allowing it to go forward by doing nothing, is that the conversation they really want to have headed into November? About how they let Obama give away oversight of Internet governance, risking censorship in the years to come?
Or, they could fight. There should be a real penalty to the Obama Commerce Department for continuing to proceed with the Internet giveaway despite being prohibited from doing so. And that penalty has to be they don’t get what they want.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.