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Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) took to Reddit this morning to answer questions about a recently introduced piece of legislation that would place a two-year ban on legislators and regulators from creating new laws or regulations that would negatively affect the Internet.
“I’m not advocating for no rules or laws on the Internet ever. But it has been made abundantly clear to me, and to a lot of other people, that both legislators and regulators have gone down the road of trying to take actions that impact the Internet without knowing their full effect,” Issa said during a Q&A session on the community news sharing site. “This is the case today both domestically and internationally.”
Issa’s new bill, officially titled the Internet American Moratorium Act (IAMA), seeks to put the majority of tech policy (regarding the Internet) on hold for the next body of congress, federal regulators like the FCC, and the White House administration. Issa said he modeled the bill after similar legislation that prevented congress from passing laws regarding an Internet sales tax for two-year periods, which gave the Internet economy a chance to thrive naturally and eventually allowed it to make sense in the grand scheme of things. For instance, goods sold on the Internet fall under the same tax laws as the state that you originally buy them from, rather than a universal Internet tax.
“The intent of this law is clear – it is to stop both formal regulations and administrative actions” that warp and change to fit a particular circumstance, Issa said in response to a Reddit user. “Often, government can exercise power without rule-making.”
Issa is referring to the power that the FCC has to regulate the Internet, as well as executive orders created by the president. One example of bad tech policy getting implemented despite failing a congressional vote is CISPA, which gave businesses greater leeway to share information with federal authorities without fear of getting prosecuted over violating basic constitutional privacy rights. CISPA failed to gain approval in the Senate, despite a rubber stamp of approval by the White House. And as a result, President Barack Obama passed a cyber security directive earlier this month that’s very similar to CISPA.
[Note: VentureBeat reader "CS" pointed out to me that Issa was an early co-sponsor of CISPA when it was introduced in late 2011. He officially added his name as a co-sponsor January 31, 2012, and was one of 106 representatives from both political parties that co-signed the bill when it passed a vote in the House back in April 2012 . While Issa should be criticized for keeping his name on the CISPA legislation, it seems he's at least learned enough to know that congress should take a break from creating new tech policy.]
But unlike previous two-year bills that prevented overreaching Internet sales tax laws/regulations, Issa’s IAMA bill has a much broader scope that includes privacy rights, copyright infringement, freedom of speech, and more. It’ll be difficult to pin down exactly what would be considered an “Internet matter,” without being extremely vague. That said, it’s unlikely to pass a vote by both bodies of congress, and even less likely to get signed into law by the President without an initial veto.
Still, it’s hard to label Issa’s actions as anything but positive. The congressman is actively seeking to get young, passionate citizens to participate in policy making in a way that hasn’t really been done in the past.