“Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.” ―Ronald Reagan
Quashing Obama’s Internet Giveaway
President Obama’s plan to give away the Internet back-end to dictatorial control of countries like Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, and North Korea has been quashed because of a provision tucked away in the recent omnibus budget bill passed by the US Congress. Yes, hidden in amongst all the pork barrel frittering and boondoggle squandering of the public funds, there was one bona fide gem thrown into the mix.
Obama’s Original Plan for Authoritarian Control of the Internet
President Obama, on March14, 2014, announced his intention to change the Internet forever, by allowing dictatorial regimes to force compromises on filtering it from the back-end. This would have had the likely effect of silencing many voices of freedom around the globe. This action was a betrayal not only to Americans, but to freedom-lovers everywhere.
What happened was that President Obama, in a rogue act, without consulting Congress announced his scheme to turn over administration of the Internet to an international body of decision-makers. More specifically, Obama had instructed the Commerce Department to ask the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to convene international stakeholders to develop a transition plan for the future coordination of the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS). (For more information with regard to this issue, please read my article here: https://eaglerising.com/9309/great-betrayal-obamas-plan-forfeit-americas-control-internet/.)
What Will Happen Now
The budget bill, it would appear, has been set up to protect the Internet from any kind of presidential tampering, at least until September 2017. The reason we know this is that the language of the bill instructs the Commerce Department to renew the contract with ICANN, in September 2015, for the standard contract term of two years.
According to Gordon Crovitz, of the Wall Street Journal, the new law also stipulates that no federal funds are to be used to “relinquish the responsibility” of the government’s oversight of the “Internet domain name system functions, including with respect to the authoritative root zone file.” So that should take care of matters with regard to the Internet back-end for the foreseeable future.
Congressional Oversight Clarified
The new law reasserts the traditional oversight of the US Congress with regard to the Internet by stating quite clearly that the Congress must be consulted in any future plan for the US to give up its protection of the Internet. If there is any notion at all of changing the contract with ICANN, or any other contract issue under consideration with respect to Internet management, Congress must be notified at least 45 days ahead of any “successor contract” or other decisions related to the Internet.
The ICANN Contract
The US contract with ICANN has been the best means so far to ensure that a fair and neutral Internet remains in play for users of all stripes, at home and abroad. While Internet filtering does occur in some places, it is according to country and does not emanate from the US-run back-end. Any set of compromises that would have been made with the authoritarian and Muslim governments of the world, under a newly altered contract, would have—at a bare minimum—done away with sites selling any erotic paraphernalia, alcoholic beverages, or firearm accessories and any spin-off business sites connected with them.
In America, people are free to choose whether or not to visit those web sites. Under a compromise plan with socialistic or Islamic regimes, censorship proceeding from the Internet back-end would only be a question of what, not if, filtering would occur. Americans would lose the Internet freedom they enjoy now, and American business would suffer even more than it is suffering currently under Obama’s big-government regulatory apparatus.
It is true that there are ways that ICANN might be overseen in the absence of a US contract. But any such plan would likely give more power to Internet registries and other commercial entities. The current oversight plan allows all special interests—business-minded groups and freedom-advocacy supporters—co-equal input into how the Internet is managed. And the watchdog function of the Congress has worked well thus far in maintaining a free and democratic Internet that has achieved a high level of both freedom of commerce and freedom of expression.
So now, due to strong Congressional action, the Internet, which is arguably the most valuable of US intellectual properties, has been rescued—at least for now. The scariest thing about Obama’s planned forfeiture of the Internet was what Americans who have been paying attention to the issue have learned about the president’s disparagement of American values.
Does any patriotic American really believe that America would have benefited from relinquishing its stewardship of the most powerful tool to promote free speech and free press that the world has ever known? Of course not! And this is not even taking into account its benefits to commerce, education, and medical research, among other things. If America ever did undertake such an action, all true Net neutrality would be lost forever. (The idea of true Net neutrality is not to be mistaken with the same-named Obama political agenda to destroy Internet freedom through statist political regulation of it.) Who can question any longer that President Obama’s allegiance is primarily to the best interests of other countries, and not to the US?
What Was Avoided
Here is what is what will not happen now: 1) censorship by governments who consider free speech a challenge to their power; 2) restrictions on technological innovations, if they would have even been allowed; 3) UN taxation of domain name registrations and other internet-based financial transactions; 4) excommunication of states such as Israel, if the new Internet stewards were to have an anti-Israel bias; and 5) future uses of the internet, now unforeseeable, that might have harmed the US, including war- or jihad-related uses.
America has managed the Internet, from the outset, for the good of the world, according to its exceptional values of freedom and openness. Certainly, it could not be much better managed than it is now. It could, however, be easily mismanaged, if given over to the control of dictators and jihadists.
Remember the Constitution!
Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the US Constitution states the following: “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States. . . .” What this language affirms is the fact that President Obama’s handling of his proposed Internet giveaway was, on the whole, illegal, since the Internet is, quite literally, American property. There were no other stakeholders in the development of the Internet or any of its US-taxpayer-funded precursors.
Since President Obama is a rogue president who disrespects the Constitution, Obama breaks federal law daily, in what he allows to happen on an ongoing basis, with regard to immigration law, victim-disarmament regulations, government-sponsored restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and many other matters too numerous to list. Congress is, therefore, correct to reaffirm in no uncertain terms its Constitutional role in the management of the Internet as government property.
A Better Future Lies Ahead
Perhaps a future goal for the continued development of the Internet might be a means of decentralizing its operation further, with the government-run back-end as one of many alternatives. For example, parallel commercial back-ends might be allowed to develop, for use by any who wish to subscribe to their services for a fee; this would be similar to allowing UPS and FedEx to compete with the US Postal Service. The sooner such an alternative system could be put into place, the safer the Internet might ultimately become. Market efficiencies would eventually be introduced as the result of the competition that would ensue, and still more benefits would accrue.
For now, a major crisis has been averted. And the Obama Administration’s expiration date more rapidly approaches with every coming day. So, perhaps this is all the crisis-avoidance that will be required. Indeed, the future looms, and the evolutionary improvement of the Internet commences even now.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com