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ICANN handover in jeopardy as Texas leads lawsuit against US government

Kevin Murphy, September 29, 2016, 15:05:13 (UTC), Domain Policy

The state attorneys general of Texas, Arizona, Nevada and Oklahoma have sued the US Federal government to stop tomorrow’s planned IANA transition.
The 11th-hour suit seeks a court declaration that the transition would be unconstitutional and a temporary restraining order forcing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to continue its oversight role.
It’s rooted in the conspiracy theories championed by the likes of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who holds that allowing the NTIA to stop authorizing DNS root modifications is akin to handing broad internet censorship powers to Russia, China and Iran.
“Trusting authoritarian regimes to ensure the continued freedom of the internet is lunacy,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a press release, losing about a thousand credibility points.
“The president does not have the authority to simply give away America’s pioneering role in ensuring that the internet remains a place where free expression can flourish,” he said.
The AGs reckon the remaining root zone partners, ICANN and Verisign, which are not bound by the First Amendment, could crack down on free speech.
The complaint states:

NTIA intends to delegate its approval authority over changes to the root zone file to ICANN and Verisign, and give these companies unbridled discretion to make changes to that file, with no substantive constraints on their decisions to grant or deny requests to alter the file that effectively enable or prohibit speech on the Internet.
Without the federal government approval authority, ICANN and Verisign have complete discretion to engage in this type of discrimination, and because these entities are private, citizens and States will not be able to use the democratic process

Citing the Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the AGs claim that the government does not have the authority to legally remove itself from oversight of the DNS root zone.
The DNS root is US property that cannot be disposed of without an act of Congress, the complaint alleges:

The Authoritative Root Zone File, the Internet Domain Name System as a whole, the exclusive right to approve changes to the root zone file, and the contracts NTIA administers in exercising control over them are property of the United States

The US Government Accountability Office told Cruz earlier this month that it was “doubtful” that it the transition requires the disposal of any US government property, in this report (pdf).
The AGs also reckon that if the US is no longer involved in root zone management, ICANN could delete .mil and .gov or transfer them to third parties.
The IANA contract between ICANN and NTIA is due to expire tomorrow night, ushering in a new era in which the global internet community becomes the back-stop preventing ICANN abusing its powers for Evil.
Cruz has been fighting against the transition for reasons best known to himself for months.
Most recently, he led an attempt to have a block on the transition included in a US federal funding bill, which wound up being passed yesterday with no such clause attached.
The four-state AG complaint can be read here (pdf).

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Comments (6)

  1. Bret Fausett says:

    Also worth mentioning here is that the case was filed in the Southern District of Texas.

  2. Bob Barker says:

    The states attorney Generals which Ted Cruz buddied up with, are the same ones known in the United States for “Templated politics” using templates for legislation throughout the US,to subvert voter rights of minorities (especially African-Americans and those of Latinos decent- (ironic as Cruz’ family is from Cuba)), Rights of women, and generally special interests of the extreme wealthy corporations and oligarchs in the US.
    I suspect support for this maybe coming from The same entities which attempted to monopolize and Garner Internet content (pipe) control (upwards of $4 to $7 trillion industry (being conservative).
    You do the math.
    They tend to use populist and religious causes to rally the masses around their special interest endeavors. This includes, however, is not limited to gerrymandering political districts to control the Congress of US, thereby “rigging the system” for their very very special interest supporters (clients).
    They are claiming “Internet freedom” on this particular issue, but it is truly quite the opposite here. Don’t worry international community- some of us understand how stupid this is, we will get it right- The Internet is still for everyone on the planet, and will still usher in peace through communication this means that we get rid of these idiots ( an uncensored opinion)

  3. Rubens Kuhl says:

    Texas can have its own root zone where .tx means their government, and the only root server is run by Texas National Guard.

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