Congress quietly saved internet freedom in CROmnibus

The $1.014-trillion Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (HR 83) may have been a 1,200-page cave-in on funding containing crony-capitalism goodies for the lobbyist class, but at least one gem was buried in the manure.  Gordon Crovitz of the Wall Street Journal spotted it:

The U.S. Congress has saved the Internet from President Obama. The White House had planned to end American protection for online freedom next year, but Congress used its power of the purse in the recent omnibus budget bill to nix the plan. That should delay any change at least until 2017. It’s hard to imagine anyone getting elected president on a platform of putting the Internet at risk.

Congress acted to protect the Internet from authoritarian regimes eager to censor websites globally. The budget bill demands that the Commerce Department continue to insulate the current “multistakeholder” system of Internet governance from political pressure, so that Internet developers and network engineers can keep operating the open Internet.

The bill forbids any funding to “be used to relinquish the responsibility” of the Commerce Department “with respect to Internet domain name system functions, including with respect to the authoritative root zone file.” That should require a renewal of the department’s contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as Icann, for at least the next two-year term, until September 2017.

Because of the way Congress operates, we do not know whom to thank for this.  (Nor do we know whom to blame for inserting pork and derivatives guarantees for big banks.)

In any event, we can breathe a little easier for now.  I just wish our legislation were not handled with such secrecy.