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Ted Cruz: Obama Plan to Give Up Internet Control ‘Likely Illegal’

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called on Congress to stop the Obama administration from giving away control of the Internet without congressional authorization — a move Cruz said is likely illegal.

Since 1998, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit organization that assigns domain names for the Internet and manages IP addresses, has operated under a contract with the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The NTIA plans to end its relationship with ICANN on Sept. 30.

“We built the Internet, and America maintains it as free for all. We don’t use it in an imperialist manner to impose our views on others, we maintain it as an oasis of freedom because we are a nation dedicated to principles that are reflected in the Bill of Rights and especially the First Amendment. What is going through the minds of Obama administration when they say, ‘Let’s just give it away?’” Cruz said during a Heritage Foundation event on ending the U.S. contractual relationship with ICANN.

“Who in their right mind looks at the Internet and says, ‘You know what we need. We need Russia to have more control over this.’ What is the thought process behind that? And I might note what the Obama administration is doing is also likely illegal. The United States Constitution prohibits transferring government property to anyone else without the authorization of Congress,” he added.

Cruz said the Obama administration should not “give away this valuable, critical property” without authorization in law.

“That ought to trouble all of us,” he said. “Where are the Democrats defending American interests? Let me encourage you to encourage friends on the left, there may be issues on which we disagree with, but free speech and Internet freedom ought to unite us all.”

Cruz has introduced the Protecting Internet Freedom Act in the Senate, which he said would stop the “radical” Internet transition to ICANN and ensure the U.S. government keeps its ownership and control of the .gov and .mil top-level domains.

“If that proposal goes through, that will empower countries like Russia, like China, like Iran to be able to censor speech on the Internet. These are not our friends,” he said. “Our legislation is supported by 17 groups across the country, advocacy groups, consumer groups, and just this afternoon, we heard it is receiving the formal endorsement of the House Freedom Caucus.”

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) introduced the House version of the legislation.

Cruz said the U.S. must fight to protect the Internet’s “amazing ability” to take power out of the “entrenched elites” and bring it to the people.

“You know, it wasn’t that many years ago that Dan Rather was a respected network news anchor until a bunch of bloggers in pajamas began fact-checking his stories and took down one of the biggest names in news,” he said. “That could never have happened prior to the Internet. That ability to research, to communicate, to get a voice out, to expand virally could never have happened prior to the Internet.”