Proposed legislation eliminates Internet 'kill switch'

Three U.S. senators introduced cybersecurity reform legislation on Thursday that would prohibit the president or any other government bureaucrat from being able to single handedly shut down the Internet.

The Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act, authored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), also permits the owners of computer networks classified as critical infrastructure to appeal their designations in federal court.

Similar legislation was introduced last year by the senators, but it was characterized by some as giving the president an Internet "kill switch."

"We want to clear the air once and for all. As someone said recently, the term 'kill switch' has become the 'death panels' of the cybersecurity debate. There is no so-called 'kill switch' in our legislation because the very notion is antithetical to our goal of providing precise and targeted authorities to the president. This legislation applies to the most critical infrastructures that Americans rely on in their daily lives – energy transmission, water supply, financial services, for example – to ensure that those assets are protected in case of a potentially crippling cyber attack," Lieberman said in a statement.

Many people have also expressed concerns about the government’s ability to pull the plug on the Internet in the wake of actions taken by the Egyptian government earlier this month, which effectively cut off citizens Internet access following protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Under the proposed bill, Collins says the president will not be afforded that power.

"Our bill contains additional protections to explicitly prevent the president from shutting down the Internet. While experts question whether anyone can technically 'shut down' the Internet in the United States, our bill has specific language making it crystal clear that such actions are expressly prohibited," she said.