ICANN Privatization Defended on Hill

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the nonprofit organization responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of databases related to the namespaces of the Internet to ensure the network’s stable and secure operation. ICANN was concerned in 2014 about potential opposition to the Obama administration’s proposal to privatize oversight of ICANN’s administration of its Internet governance functions from the Department of Commerce. At that time, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other members of Congress began advocating for legislation to block the Obama administration’s plan to transfer control of the Internet domain-name system to an international body on October 1, 2016.

ICANN retained Akin Gump to assist with legislative strategy and oversight matters, as well as congressional investigations, of the proposed transition. The Akin Gump team executed a bipartisan and bicameral strategy to defeat the legislation seeking to prohibit the transition. This legislative effort played out across a range of authorizing and appropriations committees, and it ultimately involved the leadership of both parties in the House and Senate. The representation included the handling of investigatory matters, such as formal inquiries by members of the Senate during the spring and summer of 2016, as well as a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2016.

After two years, the Akin Gump team successfully represented ICANN in blocking congressional passage of any legislation preventing its Internet domain-name transition from the Department of Commerce. The ICANN transition was completed, as scheduled, on October 1, 2016—a significant victory for both Akin Gump and ICANN.