Groups Signal Red Alert on Net Neutrality CRA

The next red letter day, literally, for the net neutrality fight is May 9. That is from net neutrality group Fight for the Future (FFTF), which said that is when it is calling on websites to turn their sites red as an alert for action. That means displaying the "red alert" widget (pictured) or doing something similar and "epic" that "gets your visitors' attention [and] drives calls and emails to Congress," FFTF said.

The move comes following reports that May 9 is when a discharge petition will be filed to force a vote on the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to nullify the FCC's Dec. 14 vote eliminating the rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization online.

That means a vote in the Senate could come within days, though it it still apparently is one vote short of passage, and is unlikely to also pass the House, though it needs only simple majorities in each.

Even if it did pass, the President is on the record in support of the FCC move, though the President has also been known to change positions, and there are Republicans and religious groups concerned about a non-neutral internet when it comes to conservative or religious speech.

Related: FFTF Plans Small Biz Push for CRA

There are, however, enough senators to at least force a vote on the measure, the same legislative maneuver Republicans used to nullify the FCC's broadband privacy decision.

The idea is for the sites to continue to display the widget until the vote occurs.

FFTF said Etsy, Tumblr and Foursquare are already committed to "go red."

Related: Pai Issues Net Neutrality 'Facts'

“We will finally force lawmakers to let us know if they stand with the 85% of Americans who support net neutrality – or with the cable companies that want to manipulate the internet in service of greater profits,” said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, which is also backing the protest. “The people are on our side – and if they make their voices heard over the coming weeks, we will push this resolution through the Senate and House.”

ISPs are pushing for net neutrality action in Congress, too, but in the form of national legislation that would prevent blocking and throttling, which they say they don't do anyway, but that would permit paid prioritization that isn't anticompetitive and allows them to differentiate their services from the competition's.

Allowing paid prioritization is so far a non-starter with Fight for the Future, Demand Progress and other net neutrality activists, as well as many Democrats. They argue there is not enough competition for consumers to opt for alternatives to paid prioritization, and that it would also create digital haves and have-nots, at a time when access to fast speeds and a wealth of content is a definite "have to have."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.