The U.S. governments contract with ICANN concerning IANA functions is set to expire today, September 30, 2016. The lapse of this contract represents the end of a twenty year effort to privatize the internet domain naming system (DNS).
Since its inception, ICANN has been overseen by the U.S. government. By letting the contract lapse, the U.S. government plans to make ICANN fully independent. Opponents of the privatization have argued that the independence of ICANN will allow authoritarian regimes to interfere with what should be a free and open internet.
The States of Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma and Nevada have now filed a lawsuit against the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), The United States of America, U.S. Department of Commerce, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, and Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Strickling in an effort to prevent the contract from expiring. They argue that by letting the contract expire, the Obama Administration is violating the U.S. Constitution property clause by giving away government property without the authorization of Congress. They also argue that the privatization will lead to internet censorship and restrictions on free speech and is thus a violation of the First Amendment.
Given the imminence of the expiry date, the plaintiffs have requested a restraining order to halt the expiry of the contract pending a hearing.
There is also a risk that if a restraining order is granted halting the process, governments will seek to create an alternative naming system and governance thus resulting in more government control not less.