Issa looks to ban Internet regulations

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Many Reddit users are fierce defenders of Internet freedom, and the site helped organize opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) earlier this year. Issa, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, was one of the leading opponents of the controversial anti-piracy legislation.

But Gigi Sohn, president of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, explained that Issa's bill would not actually prevent Congress from passing laws like SOPA.

"Even if they pass this bill, Congress could pass another Internet regulation bill that would supersede the previous bill," Sohn said.

Issa's bill would, however, prevent regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), from adopting new rules that affect the Internet.

Sohn warned that prohibiting all government regulation of the Internet would "throw the Internet into corporate hands."

Most Democrats support the FCC's net neutrality rules, which prohibit Internet service providers from slowing down or blocking legitimate websites. Supporters say the rules are critical for ensuring an open and free Internet.

But Issa and other Republicans argue that net neutrality is an unnecessary burden on businesses. 

Sohn noted that Issa's bill wouldn't stop the net neutrality rules since the FCC already enacted them, but the bill could block other potential regulations, such as rules on broadband caps. 

The FCC isn't drafting any rules on broadband caps, but Sohn and other consumer advocates argue the agency should investigate whether providers should be allowed to limit their customers' Internet usage.

Sohn said Issa's bill could also block future regulations on Internet privacy. The Federal Trade Commission is currently working on an update to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which restricts the ability of websites to collect information from children younger than 13.

Sohn said that depending on how broadly the courts interpret the definition of the "Internet," the bill could also derail efforts to provide more radio frequencies for cellphone service providers, which are struggling to keep pace with the booming demands placed on their networks by smartphones and tablet computers.

"This bill could have unintended consequences that even its proponents would not be happy with," Sohn said.

The bill might also prevent the president from issuing an executive order on cybersecurity. President Obama is considering an executive order to pressure owners of "critical infrastructure" to meet cybersecurity standards after the Senate failed to pass legislation on the issue.

A spokesman for Issa said the draft bill is not about trying to block any particular regulation, like net neutrality. Instead, the measure is intended to start a discussion about the appropriate role of the government in overseeing the Internet, the spokesman explained.

He added that Issa hopes to formally introduce a more detailed version of the bill next year after reviewing responses on Reddit and on his own site for discussing legislation, Project Madison.

Sohn said that while she has serious concerns with the measure, she agrees that it could be a "good conversation starter."