The US Federal Communications Commission has officially repealed net neutrality rules introduced in 2015 by the Obama administration, which established US federal regulations prohibiting internet service providers from blocking or throttling content for customers or creating “fast lanes” for companies that pay more to have their services delivered at a faster speed.
But the fight for a free and open internet isn’t over. Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, and the Free Press Action Fund are now calling on Congress to block the FCC’s new rules from ever going into effect. (Free Press and other organisations have also promised to sue to block the rules.)
Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress could issue a resolution of disapproval and overrule the FCC’s decision. But it’s not going to be easy – the CRA only provides Congress a 60 day window in which to act, and a resolution of disapproval needs either presidential support or backing from two-thirds of the House and Senate.
Republicans used the CRA more than a dozen times this year to overturn Obama-era regulations, leading Democratic Senators Tom Udall and Cory Booker to introduce legislation that would eliminate the CRA altogether. But other Democratic legislators – Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Mike Doyle – committed to introducing a resolution of disapproval after the FCC vote, and Markey has already followed through, with the support of 17 other Senators.
“The CRA empowers Congress to review new regulations and pass a joint resolution of disapproval to overrule any recent regulations it doesn’t like,” Free Press’s Dana Floberg explained. “Think of it as a double negative: If we repeal [FCC Chairman Ajit] Pai’s repeal, we could end up right back where we started – with strong Net Neutrality rules.”
Only called on the FCC to delay its vote, and a handful of other Republican lawmakers have made critical comments about the FCC’s process without specifically calling for a delay.
If enough Republicans can be convinced to support net neutrality, net neutrality activists just might have a shot. Fight for the Future is encouraging voters to get involved by putting pressure on their representatives.
“Net neutrality has more public support now than it ever has before. Internet users are educated, outraged, and strategic, and they know that Congress has the power to overturn the FCC vote,” Fight for the Future said in a statement. “Lawmakers cannot hide from their constituents on this issue.”
Notably, this effort to push a resolution of disapproval is separate from those seeking a permanent legislative solution to enshrine net neutrality protections under federal law. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) argued recently that the final decision about net neutrality belongs in the hands of lawmakers, not the FCC.
Update 2:35 p.m.: Rep. Doyle has announced he plans to introduce a resolution of disapproval that would overturn today’s FCC decision, with support from ten other Democratic representatives.
“I’ve tried repeatedly to convince Chairman Pai to abandon his plans to dismantle the Open Internet Order– most recently by organising a letter from 118 Members of Congress urging him not to take this vote today – and now that the FCC has voted to kill Net Neutrality and give ISPs a green light to control access to the Internet, I will introduce legislation under the Congressional Review Act to overturn today’s order and restore Net Neutrality,” he said in a statement.