Hill Dems Seek to Nullify FCC Net Rule Rollback

Hill Democrats and activists have taken the CRA ball and are trying to run with it.

Republicans used Congressional Review Act resolutions to nullify various Obama-era regs earlier this year, including the FCC's broadband privacy reg framework. Now in the wake of the FCC's decision this week to roll back net neutrality regs and reclassify ISPs out from under Title II-based (common carrier) mandatory access requirements, they are looking to take a page out of that playbook with a CRA resolution nullifying this week's decision.

The big difference is Congress is controlled by Republicans generally supportive of the rollback. Activists have pointed to a handful of defectors who suggested the FCC could have held off on the vote, but it would take more than that, even to get the simple majority in both Houses, which is all it takes.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), one of Congress' most ardent Title II supporters, is among those leading the CRA charge. Following the Dec. 14 vote he joined with more than a dozen other senators to back a CRA that would undo the Restoring Internet Freedom decision, pointing out that the order was upheld by a federal court.

Related: Activists Decry FCC Vote as Existential Net Threat

That is true, but the court essentially confirmed the FCC had had the authority to change course and reclassify under Title II.

Presumably by the same logic, it could change course again, as it has, so long as the decision was legally defensible and not arbitrary and capricious.

But Markey does not see the decision as defensible.

“With this CRA, Congress can correct the Commission’s misguided and partisan decision and keep the internet in the hands of the people, not big corporations," he said. "Our Republicans colleagues have a choice - be on the right side of history and stand with the American people who support net neutrality, or hold hands with the big cable and broadband companies who only want to supercharge their profits at the expense of consumers and our economy.”

Backing the CRA move are Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, and Free Press Action Fund, which have launched an internet campaign to pressure Congress into passing the CRA.

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.