GALVESTON, Texas (UPI) — A federal judge on Friday rejected a last-ditch effort by four states to stop the U.S. government from handing over control of the Internet to an international body when the calendar turns to Saturday.
Judge George Hanks, Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas denied an emergency request by the states — Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma and Nevada — for a temporary restraining order to interrupt the handover, which was scheduled for midnight Friday.
Attorneys general from the states filed the lawsuit Wednesday.
A U.S. Department of Commerce contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is set to expire Friday. ICANN, formed in 1998, manages domain names and assigns Internet service provider numbers.
In June, the Department of Commerce and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced that ICANN had submitted a proposal for complete privatization of the system, and that the United States would relinquish stewardship when the contract expires.
The lawsuit argued that the states “will lose the predictability, certainty, and protections that currently flow from federal stewardship of the Internet and instead be subjected to ICANN’s unchecked control.”
The suit says Obama’s plan to hand over control of the Internet is an illegal transfer of U.S. government property and that it requires congressional approval.
Judge Hanks, however, ruled Friday that the plaintiffs failed to prove that irreparable harm would result from the handover and denied the injunction — clearing the way for the transfer to occur at midnight Friday.
Some applauded the ruling, some opposed it and others said the fight may continue — even after the handover.
“The states aren’t likely to give up, but even if they do, the House may still join the fight, as could other intervenors,” Berin Szóka, president of TechFreedom, said in response to Hanks’ ruling Friday. “And even if this lawsuit fizzles, some other plaintiff could raise the issue in the future.”
The ICANN board of directors is overseen by the Governmental Advisory Committee, which includes 111 countries, including China, Russia and Iran. But according to the organization’s website, countries don’t control the Internet.
“The United States government’s contract with ICANN does not give the U.S. any power to regulate or protect speech on the Internet,” it says. “The freedom of any person to express his or herself on the globally interoperable Internet is in fact enhanced by the transition moving forward.”
Assistant Secretary of Commerce Larry Strickling said Internet freedom is best preserved by handing it over to those who use and operate the networks, and previously noted that privatization of the domain name system “has been a goal of Democratic and Republican administrations since 1997.”
ICANN, with a budget of more than $130 million a year and 350 employees based in California, coordinates the Domain Name System that matches millions of computer addresses with the numbers.
Jon Postel, a famed computer scientist at the University of Southern California, originally kept a clipboard to make sure no user had the same number. He was one of a small group of computer scientists who created the Arpanet, the precursor to the Internet, in 1969. Postel managed the assignments until his death in 1998 when ICANN was formed.
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