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The Rundown

Senate Needs One More Vote as States Sue to Save Net Neutrality

The FCC may have voted to rollback net neutrality, but the battle for the internet is far from over as lawmakers mobilize.

by Impact Staff
Jan 17 2018, 5:45pm

Photo by Stacie Isabella Turk/Ribbonhead via Flickr

Last year, net neutrality became a mainstream topic of national conversation when the policy that once ensured that internet service providers treat all web traffic equally was in jeopardy of being ended. The regulation, which was created in 2015 under the Obama administration, banned paid prioritization; meaning Internet Service Providers (ISPs) weren’t allowed to charge internet users for “fast lane” internet service. On December 14, despite protests across the country and widespread condemnation for from across the political spectrum, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) — led by former Verizon lawyer and Trump appointee, Ajit Pai — voted in favor of ending neutrality regulations.

While net neutrality may technically be dead for now, there’s a congressional effort in the US Senate to resurrect the rule spearheaded by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). Markey first proposed legislation that would have protected net neutrality in early 2017, but he only received the necessary support to co-sponsor his resolution in January of 2018. On January 8, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) announced that she would be the thirtieth co-sponsor for the effort, meaning pro-neutrality senators—all Democrats with the exception of Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine— could force a vote to overturn the FCC’s ruling through the Congressional Review Act.

Although it seems improbable given that the GOP-controlled House of Representatives would have to weigh in, it’s not impossible for Congress to reverse the FCC’s decision. Right now, the Senate only needs one more vote to pass the net neutrality restoration bill. If the bill does pass it will go to the House, where its prospects of passing are dim. Republicans have a larger share of the House, and while the push to restore net neutrality is technically a bipartisan effort it’s mainly supported by the Democrats. Regardless, the action of late is a huge milestone and will likely have implications for tightly contested midterm races.

On Tuesday, Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA) announced via Twitter that he had introduced a “Save Net Neutrality” bill and that 81 members of Congress have asked to co-sponsor the legislation.

If both chambers of Congress pass their net neutrality restoration bills, the final step to overturning net neutrality is presidential approval. It’s likely that Trump will side with his appointed FCC chair and veto any pro-net neutrality resolution, but public pressure is mounting in support of the policy.

Most Americans are in favor of net neutrality and a presidential veto wouldn’t be a good look for Trump who already has abysmal approval ratings. Coupled with the recently passed tax overhaul, Trump’s reputation as a champion of working people will be increasingly hard to maintain as it’s the world’s largest telecom companies who have the most to gain from the repeal.

What you can do:

Fight for the Future is a non-profit activist group for digital rights. They’re calling on internet users across the country to join their campaign to kick elected officials who vote against net neutrality out of office by voting against them in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.

If you want to restore the net neutrality regulations that kept the internet a free space, then reach out your representative and tell them how you feel.

And then some:

The fight for net neutrality is no longer taking place just in Congress, it’s now moved to the courts and states. According to a CNBC report, more than 20 U.S. state attorneys generals filed a suit that will challenge the FCC’s ruling to kill net neutrality. The AG’s are saying that the FCC’s decision is a violation of federal law and must be reversed.

Also, efforts are underway for local communities and municipalities to build their own ISPs. Here at VICE, Motherboard is cooking up a full-on digital revolution.