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S. 3034 (114th): Protecting Internet Freedom Act

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) won the second-most number of delegates among Republican candidates, but he couldn’t stop the momentum of Donald Trump and dropped out on May 3. He is widely considered the most likely of the four senators who ran for president in 2016 to do so again in 2020, if the opportunity presents itself. Since dropping out, Cruz has introduced one bill, out of the 36 he has introduced this Congress: S. 3034, the Protecting Internet Freedom Act.

Since the early days of the Internet, the U.S. government has helped oversee the Internet domain name system which allows people to access most websites, through a subdivision of the Department of Commerce called the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The Obama Administration has to decide by September 30 whether to privatize these functions and take it out of government’s hands. Cruz’s bill would prevent the NTIA from relinquishing its authority over the Internet domain name system unless explicitly authorized by Congress.

Cruz casts the bill as a necessary bulwark against foreign influence of an American-led communications medium. “The Obama administration is months away from deciding whether the United States Government will continue to provide oversight over core functions of the Internet and protect it from authoritarian regimes that view the Internet as a way to increase their influence and suppress freedom of speech,” said Cruz, citing Russia and China as examples. “This issue threatens not only our personal liberties, but also our national security.”

Opponents argue that privatization would “give oversight authority to those groups that represent the rich diversity of the Internet itself: business leaders, Internet engineers, academics, civil society, governments, end users and many others,” as a recent op-ed published in Politico by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said. Some observers have also noted the irony that the self-proclaimed “anti-government” Cruz supports a bill that would retain partial government control over the Internet.

Last updated Jul 11, 2016. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jun 8, 2016.

Protecting Internet Freedom Act

This bill prohibits the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information from allowing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's responsibility for Internet domain name system functions, including the authoritative root zone file and the performance of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions, to cease unless a federal statute enacted after enactment of this bill expressly grants the Assistant Secretary such authority.

The Assistant Secretary must certify to Congress that the U.S. government has: (1) secured sole ownership of the .gov and .mil top-level domains, and (2) entered into a contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers that provides the U.S. government with exclusive control and use of those domains in perpetuity.