Senate Democrats plus one Republican Wednesday (May 9) officially launched the process of trying to nullify the FCC's elimination of rules against blocking and throttling and paid prioritizing of internet access.
They remain one vote short of the needed simple majority--51 votes--needed to approve a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution which is filing the discharge petition that will force a vote in the full senate on the measure by June 12.
In announcing the launch, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), has been motormanning the effort, called it an "important day in the fight for net neutrality." He thanked the activists who had brought the movement "from the ground up to this point."
Sen Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was one of a parade of Democratic senators, which included minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Commerce ranking member Bill Nelson (Fla.), who took to the podium to promote the CRA and hammer ISPs for potentially blocking and throttling and running roughshod over privacy.Durbin made it all about the President."Under the Trump Administration, everything is for sale," he said. "Our public lands, our privacy, even our pathway to the internet. It is time, today, for Americans to log on and tell President Donald Trump to lay off America's access to the internet."Sen. Brian Schaatz (D-Hawaii) suggested a value in the vote beyond passage--which almost certainly won't happen. That would be at midterm election time.
He said the vote is a chance to get all the senators on the record as either for or against a free and open internet. "There is nowhere to hide and no more excuses. Republicans are going to regret it from a political standpoint. They have awakened a sleeping giant. I cannot think of an issue that polls so decisively on one side. People underestimate the passion of internet voters at their peril."
According to Fight for the Future, net neutrality activists aided by a number of Web sites--Reddit, Tinder, Tumblr, Etsy, Pornhub, OK Cupid, GitHub, Match.com, TripAdvisor--are participating in a "Red Alert for Net Neutrality" protest featuring widgets on their sites and in-app notifications to try and get users to pressure Congress ahead of the vote.
While a quick check of sites did not find the aforementioned widgets, Fight for the Future said they would be rolling out throughout the day, and noted the in-app notifications.
INCOMPAS, whose members include some major edge players, posted a Web video arguing that a majority of Republicans support net neutrality as well.
Even if Democrats get that second Republican vote and the CRA did pass the Senate, it is unlikely to pass the House, where it would need a couple dozen Republican votes to pass and quite a few to even be brought up for a vote (at 160 votes, it still lacks a lot of Dems, and then be signed by a President who is on the record in favor of rolling back the net neutrality rules.
Fight for the Future concedes that up-Hill battle, but is looking for a moral victory in the Senate vote, which it argues "will impact the net neutrality fight for years to come." Democrats are hoping to use net neutrality as an election issue and activists are calling out legislators who don't vote for the CRA to aid that process.
Actually, the rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization are still in effect even though the vote to eliminate them was Dec. 14, 2017. That is because the Office of Management and Budget has yet to give its final approval to the paperwork obligations related to the transparency portion of the rule rollback, which requires ISPs to report to the FCC on just how they are managing their networks, say, if they decide to do paid prioritization, or even block or throttle, the last two which ISPs have said they won't do, but theoretically could.
The FCC tied the effective date of the rules to the transparency approval because just what ISPs are doing is central to the new network neutrality enforcement regime, which depends on the Federal Trade Commission having that info and determining whether that conduct is anticompetitive or unfair or deceptive--either via responding to complaints or initiating its own investigation--in which case it could take action to stop it.
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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.