A new survey of 1,077 registered voters in the US found that the FCC's plan to rollback net neutrality protections is staggeringly unpopular among Republican voters.
The survey, conducted by the University of Maryland's Program for Public Consultation (PPC) and Voice of the People, a nonpartisan polling organisation, found that only one in five Republican voters support FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's plan to repeal Obama-era rules net neutrality rules. It also found that three out of four Republicans oppose the Pai's plan. Overall, 83 per cent of Americans do not approve of his proposal.
The survey underscores what net neutrality advocates have been saying for months, that outside of Washington, DC, this is not a partisan issue, and that repealing the rules will carry a political cost for the GOP.
In a statement obtained by the Washington Post, the Federal Communications Commission attacked the survey, calling it "biased." Hilariously, the Republican-led commission instead pointed to a 2-year-old study that was conducted by telephone and involved 277 fewer respondents.
"Earlier polling by Democratic pollster Peter Hart showed that most Americans believe that utility-style regulation of the Internet is harmful, and this is the regulation that the Restoring Internet Freedom order will eliminate," the FCC said.
It's that time again. It's time to break the internet in order to raise awareness about net neutrality. The FCC vote to repeal Title II protections is on Thursday in the US, and web-based protests are kicking off in response. Some of the biggest pioneers of tech jumped in on Monday to give the protests a bump, but the difference now is that it may be the last time we'll see such calls to action over Title II.
In comparison to Hart's study, the university's pollsters gave respondents a policy briefing ahead of time, laying out the cases both for and against Pai's order. Steven Kull, PPC's director, told the Post that a government official who represented the Trump administration's position reviewed the content of the briefing.
Only 48 per cent of the respondents found the government's case persuasive, compared to 75 per cent who found the arguments against Pai's order convincing.
At least some Republicans lawmakers have begun feeling the heat. Tuesday afternoon, Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman sent Pai a letter in which he asked the FCC chairman to delay the vote. And Sen. John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, called for legislation to protect the internet, saying on the Senate floor: "Congressional action is the only way to solve the endless back and forth on net neutrality rules that we've seen over the past several years."
Republicans hold three of the five seats of the FCC, effectively giving them control the commission's actions. Should the vote take place on Thursday and pass, as it's expected to, it seems likely that the issue will come back to haunt the GOP in 2018. That knowledge is apparently giving at least a few of the party's members pause.