The Obama administration has temporarily halted its plan to cede U.S. oversight of the internet and to thereby give despotic regimes more control over what their citizens can read.

Under the current system–the one that will end if the  Obama administration has its way–the U.S. has a long-standing contract with Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann.  The Obama administration is determined to end U.S. oversight. The current delay is of course welcome but it doesn't mean the administration has given up on this project.

Gordon Crovitz writes of the administration's effort to end this oversight:

The Obama administration at first claimed that the U.S. role was merely “clerical.” This ignored the American exceptionalism at the heart of the Internet as we know it. U.S. oversight created a global Internet that protects free speech and open innovation, which are now core digital values around the world. Authoritarian regimes are forced to invest billions of dollars to close off access to the open Internet while they monitor and censor their citizens.

But why spend all this effort and money blocking when the U.S. could just get out of the picture and give authoriarian regimes a free hand? Unfortunately, the administration's agreement to a delay, under pressure from critics, hasn't stopped these regimes from planning for a U.S. oversight-less future.

Gordon Crovitz, who has seen leaked documents on what other countries have in store for the internet, writes:

A concerned participant in the Internet-governance negotiations sent me the synopsis of positions taken by governments at an Icann planning meeting held in Paris in July. Behind closed doors, governments spoke openly about their plans once the Obama administration gives up U.S. oversight.

Based on the views expressed in the Icann planning meetings, the overwhelming majority of countries want more power for governments and less for the multistakeholders. Over the objections of a handful of countries such as the U.S., Britain, Australia and Japan, governments plan to “upgrade” their current advisory function over the Internet to a controlling role.

China says governments “should acquire relatively independent status.” Argentina says the “current imbalance of government participation in Icann structure must not persist.” India says the “operating principles should be reviewed” to give governments more power. Spain wants the role of governments to be “advisory plus.”

Russia endorses more power for governments, but it wants to complete plans only after the U.S. gives up protection for the Internet. Moscow says the role of governments “should be more meaningful than just advisory,” but it cautions that this “topic needs to be further examined in [the] post-transition period.” In other words, governments should move to control the Internet only after the U.S. gives up the ability to block such a move.

I love the term "meaningful" in relation to government control over the flow of information, don't you?

Congress blocked the administration internet plan for this year and Crovitz urges them to act again.

Let's hope that the oversight will stay with the U.S. until President Obama ends his second term and that the next president will understand how vital the U.S. is to preserving the free flow of information on the internet and how vital this is to the world.