U.S. considers an Internet kill switch

A digital lock symbolizes Internet crime and online fraud.

TEXT OF STORY

BOB MOON: When the government of Hosni Mubarak ordered Internet service providers to turn off Egyptian web access, the U.S. objected. But what if the Internet itself was under attack? Should the government have the authority ... and ability ... to turn off the Internet to save it? From Washington, John Dimsdale reports Congress has taken up the question of an Internet kill switch.


JOHN DIMSDALE: The 1934 Telecommunications Act allows the president to takeover any lines of communication in a national emergency. Now, a group of Senators wants to limit the president's authority. They've added language to a cybersecurity bill so no one in the government can turn the Internet off.

The bill limits government intervention even when the Internet is under a cyber attack. For example, the president would have to identify financial risks higher than $25 billion before the government could step in.

Marc Rotenberg with the Electronic Privacy Information Center says the president should also consider the collateral damage to the economy if any part of the Internet were turned off.

MARC ROTENBERG: The associated costs for all the businesses and users and government agencies and everyone else who's dependent on the Internet would just be enormous, particularly in the United States.

Rotenberg isn't even sure a kill switch is possible here. Egypt, he notes, has four Internet Service Providers. The U.S. has nearly four thousand.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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