Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has proposed legislation that restricts any new regulations or laws governing the internet. The legislation states: “After 90 days of passage of this Act 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.”
Issa proposed the law on Reddit to a skeptical audience pointing out the congressman’s support for the Cyber Intelligence and Sharing Act. This may be part of a Republican effort to court young voters protective of the internet, free expression, and the expansion of copyright regimes (like the released and rescinded policy paper by the Republican Study Committee on copyright reform).
But free market economics should not need regulations to prevent regulations. Congress is certainly capable of proposing (and passing) terrible laws but they can also pass good laws. Just because some regulations are bad does not mean all regulations are bad.
The DMCA, a terrible law that is a massive infringement of the first amendment and is regularly used to restrict speech, has somehow managed to included the beneficial safe harbor provisions that have allowed many internet companies to survive copyright holder pressures to stifle innovation. If the safe harbors hadn’t been explicitly written, it’s not apparent that the courts would have protected third-party companies from copyright lawsuits, putting into jeopardy all search engines and social media websites from YouTube to Facebook.
This kind of moratorium just punts all questions about net neutrality, copyright reform, and cyber security out two years. In fact, it bars Congress from reacting at all, possibly preventing DMCA reform or banning packet inspections (which is my favored way of instating de facto net neutrality since ISPs would not be allow to know what kind of traffic you are transmitting). Further, if there is enough support to pass a moratorium on internet regulations, than there should be enough support to just not pass these laws in the first place.
Banning new regulation only serves to avoid debating what regulations are or aren’t needed. It fails to solve a problem and could birth unintended consequences that may be more detrimental. If the goal is to do nothing, than just do nothing. Congress has proven itself effective at that.