The Internet kill switch idea is already hurting cloud computing

Giving the government the ability to control or even shut down the Internet would scare away organizations moving to the cloud

Pending federal legislation called the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, aka Senate bill 3480, would grant the president of the United States the power to cut Internet access in a declared emergency, including blocking the Web for as many as 30 days, through a new agency to be called the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications. This concept was introduced last year, and it returned to the forefront this week when the S.3480 bill passed in its committee on the same day Egypt's Internet connection was shut down to curtail widespread government protests.

Bad timing.

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The popular myth is that the Internet can't be shut down. This was true in the days of the original peer-to-peer architecture of first ARPAnet and the original Internet, which the U.S. Defense Department designed to be resilient in the face of a nuclear attack or similar event. In such a case, the Internet would automatically reroute itself through accessible nodes. But today, as Egypt learned, the huge backbones that feed Internet service providers can in fact be plugged. Less dramatically, we've seen in the United States that a cut fiber line can leave large communities disconnected for days.

While I don't think this bill will end up as law, the concept of giving the government the ability to monitor, control, and block the Internet makes those organizations looking at the emerging cloud computing space think twice. Why would you put your data and processing in public clouds that depend on Internet connectivity when that connectivity can be pulled from you at any time?

Although I'm not one of those who normally distrusts my government, I can see cases where cloud providers are closed for business due to some security or regulatory issue caused by one cloud tenant, thereby plugging every tenant's access to their data as well until the issue is resolved. If passed, this bill will lead to a slippery slope where more access is cut off as a precaution in the name of safety and security.

Already, the very idea of a government Internet kill switch is spurring changes in user behavior as the more paranoid move their email and calendars back from cloud-based systems to locally controlled servers. If this bill progresses, more will follow suit. The fact that a business could be shut down by the government with just a flick of a kill switch will make many organizations think long and hard about their move to the cloud.

In this case, our politicians are not helping.

This article, "The Internet kill switch idea is already hurting cloud computing," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.