New bill aims to keep Washington’s grubby mitts off the Internet for 2 years

Rep. Darrell Issa signs Declaration of Internet Freedom

How would you feel if the U.S. federal government were prohibited from enacting any legislation that imposes new rules on “the Internet” for at least the next two years?

This is the question that may soon come before Congress, thanks to a proposed bill from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). Issa is currently seeking input on the bill, a draft of which he released late Monday night.

As is so often the case these days, Issa reached out to the buzzing hive of Internet activism, social link-sharing website Reddit, for feedback on the proposed legislation. In fact, he even went the extra mile to get Redditors’ support by calling the bill the Internet American Moratorium Act, or IAMA, which mimics the “I Am A” name of Reddit’s massively popular crowd-sourced interview community, where everyone from regular Joes with interesting jobs to Hollywood celebrities to President Barack Obama have dropped by. Of course, Issa has taken part in the IAMA action himself, and is surprisingly active on Reddit.

IAMA expressly prohibits the enactment of any legislation that “would require individuals or corporations engaged in activities on the Internet to meet additional requirements or activities.” Furthermore, “no Department or Agency of the United States shall publish new rules or regulations, or finalize or otherwise enforce or give lawful effect to draft rules or regulations affecting the Internet until a period of at least 2 years from the enactment of this legislation has elapsed.”

The legislation does make exceptions for national security emergencies.

While IAMA may sound like a positive protection for maintaining the Internet’s status quo, there are a number of caveats that Issa’s fellow Members in Congress will surely take into consideration. For example, IAMA could prevent the passage of legislation that provides protections for the average Web user, while allowing corporations to operate without fear of new government regulation.

Or, IAMA could have no effect on Congress’s powers whatsoever, even if it passes the House, Senate, and President Obama’s desk unchanged.

“Even if they pass this bill, Congress could pass another Internet regulation bill that would supersede the previous bill,” Gigi Sohn, presidet of advocacy group Public Knowledge, told The Hill.

So there’s that… Still, IAMA would prevent other federal agencies, like the Federal Communications Commission, from instituting new rules that effect the Internet, such as an expansion of the FCC’s Net neutrality rules.

Many of the Redditors who responded to Issa’s IAMA proposal voiced support for the measure, which is no surprise given the Reddit community’s intense opposition to bills like SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA – the latter of which Issa actually voted for, a point Redditors were quick to point out.