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Power Trip: Lawmakers Propose US 'Kill Switch' for Internet

Friday, 18 Jun 2010 | 8:18 PM ET

While the rest of the world was was watching BP and Europe this week, some U.S. lawmakers were hatching a plan for a “kill switch” for the Internet.

Emergency Shut-Off Switch
fotog | Getty Images
Emergency Shut-Off Switch

Joe Lieberman, the former running mate of Al “I invented the Internet” Gore and current chair of the Homeland Security committee, has proposed the legislation, along with Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, and Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware.

“The Internet may have started out as a communications oddity some 40 years ago but it is now a necessity of modern life and, sadly, one that is under constant attack,” Lieberman said in a press release outlining the proposed legislation, noting that everything from key infrastructure to bank accounts and industrial secrets all live on the Internet and is vulnerable to attack.

“We cannot afford to wait for a ‘cyber 9/11’ before our government finally realizes the importance of our digital resources,” said Sen. Collins said.

The legislation would not only create such a kill switch but would give the sole power to press it to the U.S. president during times of national emergency.

Why would the president have such power, you ask? Of course, because the Internet is the property of the U.S.A.—or at least that's what a person would assume after learning the bill's name: The “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act,” as it's called, would create an Internet-regulatory arm within the Department of Homeland Security, which “would enforce cybersecurity policies throughout the government and the private sector.”

The government would essentially draw up a list of private companies involved in the Internet, from broadband providers to search engines — you know, like Google , Yahoo and Microsoft — and any company on that list would have to “immediately comply with any emergency measure or action developed.”

Halfway around the world in Australia, Bjorn Landfeldt, an associate professor at the University of Sydney, pointed out that the Internet, ahem, involves the "THE ENTIRE WORLD" and likened such a power to giving a single country “the right to poison the atmosphere or poison the ocean,” according to a story in Australian newspaper The Age.

I think after this week’s dramatic episode of “The Bold and the Apologetic” on Capitol Hill, where Texas Rep. Joe Barton bone-headedly apologized to BP President Tony Haywardinstead of grilling him, we can all agree that before we can grant anyone a “kill switch” for the Internet, we’re gonna need a “kill switch” for Congress!

Questions? Comments? Write to us at ponyblog@cnbc.com.

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