Will the Government Shutdown Affect the Internet?

Published by Designzillas on October 2, 2013

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In case you haven’t heard, the government shut down on Tuesday because Congress could not pass a spending bill relating to the much-debated Obamacare. Now, this is not the first time that the government has halted operations; in fact, it has happened 18 times before, the longest being in 1995 for 21 days. But 1995 was a simpler time, before the Internet was as massive a force as it is today in our “digital age.”

Most likely, the government shutdown will not place a significant burden on your day-to-day internet or business activities, but there definitely are some instances where you might feel some strain. Due to the shutdown, some government websites will cease functioning at normal capacity, or go offline altogether. Among these are:

  • The Federal Trade Commission – responsible for consumer protection and safeguarding against anti-competitive business practices
  • The Library of Congress – the national library of the United States
  • The National Park Service – the federal agency that manages all national parks and monuments in the US
  • The US Department of Agriculture – the federal department responsible for executing policy on farming, agriculture, forestry, and food
  • NASA – the agency of the US government responsible for the nation’s space program and aeronautic research
  • The Internal Revenue Service – the revenue service of the US government responsible for collecting taxes

CAN IT AFFECT ME?

Now how can this affect regular people? If you need to submit a Freedom of Information Act request of file a complaint against a business, you won’t be able to because the FTC website consists of a lovely splash page.

Citizens will also be unable to use the Library of Congress website which has over 150 million records and documents in its catalog. If you needed to do some important research for copyright services or perhaps to browse the law library, you will be unable to until services become operational again.

Many of these services have also ceased activity on their social media accounts — their last messages appearing left and right on Tuesday.

Perhaps the most annoying of the shutdowns is the Internal Revenue Service, or the good ol’ IRS. The website is still up and functioning and citizens are still expected to turn in their 2012 federal income tax returns on October 15, but any other services you may be searching for on their website (or through phone calls) will be suspended, including refunds.

Other than websites being shut down and hindering convenience, businesses that cater primarily to government workers may feel the effects of the shutdown in more latent ways. For instance, local businesses and mom-and-pop operations in areas that rely heavily on tourism (such as national parks and areas with museums) will see drops in sales, as these places will not be as heavily populated as they are during normal periods.

For those who use online government services on a daily basis, it may feel like the country has, in a way, reverted back to 1983. Especially those government personnel who have had their smartphones taken away to keep them from checking their work emails. But luckily, this does not seem to be the case for the majority of us; so like an iPhone with a dead battery, we will just have to postpone these types of activities until the government recharges and turns back on.

Here’s a not-so-fun list of things that you can’t do during a government shutdown:

  • Apply for a small business loan
  • Apply for Medicare or Social Security benefits
  • Visit the monuments
  • Continue to be audited (the IRS has suspended all audit activities, which isn’t all bad…)
  • Watch the National Zoo’s Panda Cam (apparently a lot of people are into this)
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