Formally, the handover is via a cooperative agreement. Plus, "This cooperative agreement will be awarded for a 5-year period to be renewed indefinitely upon satisfactory performance. The
cooperative agreement will be at no cost to the Federal government, and EDUCAUSE will only be able to recover its cost of administering the .edu domain services. Continuation awards within the project period will be made on the basis of satisfactory progress."
It's entirely possible that this re-delegation would have garnered a consensus of the affected community if they had been consulted; indeed it's possible that universities couldn't care at all, as long as the stuff works, and the prices stay low. Educause will undoubtedly open .edu to community colleges and other groups that have currently found it hard to get .edu registrations, and that will make a lot of Senators and Representatives happy. And it's a no-profit contract (which usually means - pay yourself well, have nice perks, but no stock options or profit sharing, sorry). So don't look for many people to be angry about this one, certainly not enough to challenge the action.
Still, doing it this way without any prior notice is an ugly precedent, especially with the flawed gTLD contracts coming down the pike. On the other hand, those agreements will impose a far greater change on the net than this one, which, in the short term at least, probably means very few changes from the established users' point of view.
Incidentally, the NTIA's stated legal authority for this move is
- 42 U.S.C. § 1870(c), which gives the National Science Foundation the authority to:
to enter into contracts or other arrangements, or modifications thereof, for the carrying on, by organizations or individuals in the United States and foreign countries, including other government agencies of the United States and of foreign countries, of such scientific or engineering activities as the Foundation deems necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter, and, at the request of the Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense, specific scientific or engineering activities in connection with matters relating to international cooperation or national security, and, when deemed appropriate by the Foundation, such contracts or other arrangements, or modifications thereof may be entered into without legal consideration, without performance or other bonds, and without regard to section 5 of title 41;
- 42 U.S.C. § 1870(j), which gives the NSF authority to:
arrange with and reimburse the heads of other Federal agencies for the performance of any activity which the Foundation is authorized to conduct;
- the National Telecommunications and Administrative Organization Act, 47 U.S.C. § 901 et seq., which arguably gives NTIA only the authority to do studies, make recommendations, issue reports, and coordinate activies between other government bodies, and
- The e-commerce White Paper, AKA Presidential Memorandum of Electronic Commerce, A Framework for Global Electronic Commerce, 33 Weekly Comp. Presidential Documents 1006 (July 1,
1997), which is an executive order, but can't give an agency powers beyond those available to it by law.
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