Consumer

Is Egypt-Style Internet Shutdown Coming To US?

Lawmakers resurrect stalled legislation
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(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Bill Gates says it’s “not that hard”. Egyptian officials simply gave an order and it happened instantaneously. And the Obama administration says it’s critical to national security.

So could the U.S. ever go the way of Egypt and shut down the Internet? Is such an order even technically feasible?

Jim Cowie, Chief Technology Officer for Renesys, an worldwide internet tracker, tells KFWB’s Maggie McKay while it may be possible, it’s not very likely for a number of reasons.

“Could you break the internet? Yeah. Can you shut it down? No. Shutting down the entire Internet would be pretty much impossible at this point,” said Cowie.

Experts say in the case of Egypt, government officials most likely gave the order to the biggest internet service providers in the nation as mounting anti-government protests threatened to undermine the stability of President Hosni Mubarak.

By rerouting web traffic to what is basically a dead end, Egypt opted for measures that have been implemented only two other times: once in Nepal after the king seized power in 2005, and once in Myanmar during nationwide protests in 2007.

If the U.S. wanted to do something similar, it would not only have to contend with ordering the nation’s top Internet service providers (ISPs) to effectively shut down their businesses — a disastrous public relations move — but current U.S. law would prevent such an authoritarian shutdown from ever being implemented.

However, CNET recently reported that three U.S. senators have thrown their support behind legislation that would grant the White House emergency powers over the internet in the event of a cyber-attack or other disasters.

A controversial bill first introduced in summer of 2010 by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) that would give the U.S. authority to commandeer privately-owned computer systems and prohibiting any review by the court system is set to return this year.

Internet companies should not be alarmed by the legislation, a Senate aide said last week.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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