Net Neutrality: It’s Still Complicated

Just when it looked like the network neutrality issue could not get more convoluted (see Cover Story, page 8), the Senate voted to nullify the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order — the Republican agency’s effort last fall to nullify the previous FCC’s rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.

It is simply the latest in a decade-plus series of decisions from the FCC, the courts and Congress that have yet to provide the sort of regulatory certainty ISPs and activists are looking for. The elimination of the FCC’s 2015 network neutrality rules by the Ajit Pai FCC goes into effect June 11, unless the House also votes to nullify it using a similar Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution. Whether the rollback stays in effect will depend on the outcome of a court challenge.

A CRA nullification is unlikely given that a couple dozen Republicans would have to join the Democrats, and not even all the Democrats have said they support the CRA.

The May 17 Senate vote, which included three moderate Republicans recruited to the cause, was being hailed by internet activists as a big victory, while Republicans were calling it a charade that would ultimately fail.

Activists are saying that if the Democrats can force a vote — via a discharge petition that has already been launched — they could pressure some vulnerable Republicans to support it, the staffer said. A discharge petition needs 218 signatures to bring a vote.

If the CRA does not pass — as it is highly unlikely to — the Democrats will try to use it as a midterm election issue, something they made clear last week.

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.