Major technology companies including Facebook, Google, and Twitter are urging United States Congress to support a plan for the government to cede control of the internet's technical management to the global community.
The US Commerce Department has primary oversight of the internet's management, but some Republican lawmakers are trying to block the handover to global stakeholders, which include businesses, tech experts, and public interest advocates, saying it could stifle online freedom by giving voting rights to authoritarian governments.
The years-long plan to transfer oversight of the non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is scheduled to occur on October 1, unless Congress votes to block the handover. The California-based corporation operates the database for domain names such as .com and .net and their corresponding numeric addresses that allow computers to connect.
In the September 13 joint letter, the technology companies said it is "imperative" that Congress does not delay the transition.
"A global, interoperable, and stable internet is essential for our economic and national security, and we remain committed to completing the nearly 20-year transition to the multi-stakeholder model that will best serve US interests," the letter said.
Other signatories include Amazon, Cloudflare, Yahoo, and several technology trade organisations.
The United State government announced its intention to relinquish control of internet administration in March 2014, and set an initial deadline of September 2015.
"All stakeholders deserve a voice in the management and governance of this global resource as equal partners." Fadi Chehadé, ICANN's president and CEO, said at the time.
Director-general of Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre Paul Wilson told ZDNet last year that the changeover was an issue of sovereignty, and that under current rules, other governments needed US government approval to make changes to the root zone or ownership of domain names.
"A government regards its country domain as sovereignty, so it doesn't sit well if the US government has control over that," he said. "And it's good governance overall to move from a US to multi-stakeholder [ownership] where everyone is on an equal footing."
Former Republican presidential candidate and chair of the US Senate Judiciary subcommittee Ted Cruz said the changeover would cause "significant, irreparable damage" to free speech, according to Politico.
The subcommittee is due to hold hearings on the issue on Tuesday, US time.