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Net Neutrality CRA Gambit Likely DOA

Sen. Edward Markey was celebrating as the 50th senator signed on to his effort to roll back the FCC’s new network-neutrality regulations, but that effort remains a long shot, the Massachusetts Democrat’s enthusiasm not withstanding.

It is not a zero chance, said one Congressional Democrat, but it is clearly an uphill effort.

Internet service providers aren’t taking any chances, though. NCTA: The Internet & Television Association hosted a meeting two weeks ago among ISP members of Broadband for America to discuss the Congressional Review Act measure to rollback the FCC’s rescinding of its 2015 net neutrality rules. An NCTA source, though, said meetings about legislative issues are a regular occurrence and part of the cable trade association’s job description.

Senate (and House) Democrats are trying to give Republicans a taste of their own medicine by using a previously little-used legislative gambit (before Republicans in the latest Congress) — the Congressional Review Act — to nullify the Republican FCC members’ vote to reclassify ISPs out from under Title II of the Communications Act. Markey is one of Capitol Hill’s biggest cheerleaders for Title II.

His big news was that all the members of the Democratic caucus, which means all the Democrats and Independents Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, had agreed to vote to overturn the FCC decision. That is in addition to the lone Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, who crossed over to support the move.

What Markey was not advertising, however, is the many obstacles that remain, including having to pick off more than two dozen Republicans in the House and get President Donald Trump to sign it.

Among those hurdles: The vote will not happen for several months — probably not until late spring or early summer, Markey has conceded. By that time, Collins could have been brought back into the Republican fold. Given how close the Senate split is, Collins is in a positon to deal and there could be other things she wants more than to cast a vote that will likely not matter, except perhaps among activists to use the midterm elections to pressure Democrats and Republicans to sign on to the CRA.

“The Internet is on a mission to save net neutrality, and lawmakers that stand in our way will regret it,” Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said last week. But the biggest obstacles are once the resolution passed the Senate, if it did.

Longshot In the House

The House remains solidly Republican. Switching a couple dozen votes there is a much bigger task.

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) — the ranking member of the House Subcomittee on Communications and Technology, who is helming the House CRA resolution — has 80-plus cosponsors, and shared Markey’s optimism. “I’m confident that if there’s enough public pressure, Congress will overturn the FCC’s order killing net neutrality,” he said.

But even if it were to pass both the Senate and the House, Trump would likely veto it, though few are making money predicting the actions of the president from one tweet to the next.

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.