In December 2017, the five-member Federal Communication Commission (FCC) voted to kill net neutrality, an Obama-era policy that regulated internet service providers by requiring them to treat all web traffic the same. The effort was driven by the Trump Administration's FCC pick and former Verizon attorney Ajit Pai, who has consistently prioritized the interests of big telecom companies over individual consumers.
The policy was largely seen as a crucial protection for individual consumers and small businesses, and meant that internet service providers can’t block websites and apps like Netflix or Snapchat. Leading up to the December FCC vote, net neutrality activists criticized the FCC’s actions and held multiple protests nationwide and an aggressive advocacy campaign. Net neutrality may indeed be dead, but the fight is far from over to ensure a more equitable internet. Last year, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) spearheaded a congressional effort to protect net neutrality. On Monday, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) announced via Twitter that she would be the 30th co-sponsor for Senator Markey’s resolution, which means that Senate Democrats can now force a vote to overturn the FCC’s ruling.
It’d be a legislative miracle but technically Congress could nullify the FCC’s net neutrality repeal under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The CRA is the same legislative process that Republicans used in 2017 to destroy the FCC rules that once protected internet users’ private browsing history.
Even if the bill passes in the Senate it still has to go through the House, where Republicans have even greater representation. In the best case scenario, the bill could pass through both chambers but President Trump would certainly veto the legislation. However, the latest development is significant because regardless if the bill passes or not, it will likely require Republican lawmakers to take a public stand on an issue that could come back to bite them around election time. The majority of Americans support net neutrality, and being seen as an enabler of the big telecom companies will not be a good look, particularly coming off the heels of the recently passed tax overhaul bill.
What you can do:
Recently, activists at Fight for the Future, a non-profit group for digital rights, have launched a campaign at VoteForNetNeutrality.com asking internet users to vote against elected officials that vote against Markey’s bill.
There are also local movements of state legislatures across the country to create net neutrality laws if the federal policy remains repealed. And here at VICE, Motherboard is laying the groundwork for how communities can build their own ISPs.
If you support a free and open internet, contact your elected official and demand that they support the net neutrality CRA.
And then some:
As of now, all the senators supporting the bill are Democrats, but some Republicans— such as Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)— have been sympathetic to the net neutrality cause. On Twitter, Senator Markey called out Senate Republicans who have yet cosponsor the legislation.