NTIA performed no antitrust analysis even as it proceeded with the creation of Internet monopoly

Aug. 26, 2016, Fairfax, Va.—Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement announcing a Freedom of Information Act response from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) regarding any antitrust analysis that was done by the agency with regards to ceding the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN):

“NTIA’s admission that they failed to consider the antitrust ramifications of transitioning governance over the Internet’s domain name system to ICANN since 2014, covering the entire period of the transition, is simply stunning. The antitrust implications were discussed in the 1998 White Paper prepared during the Clinton Administration that is effectively the Holy Grail for those seeking to know about Internet governance issues, yet somehow the politically blinded Obama Administration missed the obvious point that ICANN loses its anti-trust shield should the government relinquish control over the property to them. This, even as NTIA has in essence been preparing to create a global monopoly over the Internet’s domain name system. They didn’t even bother to ask if there would be any concerns with that. Simply unbelievable.

“The irony is that one of the false fronts put forward by those who are pushing the giveaway is that it will prevent a ‘breaking’ of the Internet, yet losing antitrust protection creates significant risk that Internet governance will be broken to bits, as different entities attempt to legally mirror ICANN domain name auctioning functions.

“Perhaps most importantly, the admission that anti-trust ramifications were not considered demonstrates that NTIA failed again to follow Congress’ mandate that they present a report on what could go wrong should the giveaway move forward. Rather than raise this obvious point and ask for a continuance of some form of antitrust exemption similar to Major League Baseball their failure to even stumble across this problem clearly demonstrates that the Obama Administration has given zero thought to the potential downside of this giveaway.

“This comes atop NTIA having apparently performed no legal analysis on whether it even had the requisite legal authority to relinquish the IANA functions in the first place prior to announcing the transition and NTIA violating Congress’ explicit prohibition on using funds to proceed with the transition the past two years even as the agency was traveling all the world and collaborating with multistakeholders working on the transition.

“Given this admission, Congress has no choice but to deny Obama’s attempt to giveaway the Internet governance functions through any means necessary including filing suit over the Executive Branch’s abrogation of Congress’ Article One power of the purse.  The Obama Administration has clearly been irresponsible in moving forward in this request, and it is Congress’ job to be the adult and stop this poorly conceived transition of the Internet. It is time this half-baked, illegal transition of critical Internet governance be thrown in the trash where it belongs. NTIA was so busy figuring out how it would turn over the Internet domain name system, apparently nobody stopped to ask if it could legally create such a monopoly.”


NTIA Freedom of Information Act response to Americans for Limited Government requesting antitrust analysis on relinquishing IANA functions to NTIA, Aug. 16, 2016 at https://getliberty.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/NTIA-No-Records-Response-Antitrust-Analysis-08.16.16.pdf

“Applicable antitrust law will provide accountability to and protection for the international Internet community. Legal challenges and lawsuits can be expected within the normal course of business for any enterprise and the new corporation should anticipate this reality.” Federal Register Volume 63, Number 111 published on Wednesday, June 10, 1998, Pages 31741-31751, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-1998-06-10/html/98-15392.htm

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