A European Union proposal to create a new governing body for the Internet has raised the hackles of US lawmakers.

Four senior members of the US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter yesterday to the US Department of State and the US Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration urging the government to maintain support for current Internet governance.

Assignment of domain names should remain under US authority, with the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) continuing to have responsibility for allocating IP (Internet Protocol) addresses, the four said.

US - a name to trust

"Given the Internet's importance to the world's economy, it is essential that the underlying domain name system of the Internet remains stable and secure," the letter said. "As such, the United States should take no action that would have the potential to adversely impact the effective and efficient operation of the domain name system. Therefore, the United States should maintain its historic role in authorising changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file."

In September, the EU split with the US by calling for a new international governing body for the Internet. Europe’s proposal would create a new model for allocating IP number blocks and could take away much of ICANN's authourity. Europe also wants a new forum to address Internet policy issues.

A new international cooperative model is needed because "the Internet is a global infrastructure," Martin Selmayr, spokesman for EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding, said in September.

Anti-business vision

The four US congressmen don’t want the way the Internet is governed to change. Letter signatories include both Democratic and Republican members of the US Congress.

The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), a US-based trade group, also opposes the EU proposal, calling it “anti-business”.

ITAA President Harris Miller said: "Governmental interference threatens to undermine the innovative, robust nature of the Internet.

"Turning this process into political football between national governments is terrible play calling - it certainly scores no points with the private sector. We owe the fast and widespread adoption of the Internet to the current system of governance."