First House Republican Backs Effort To Restore Net Neutrality
from the steep-uphill-climb dept
While the best chance of reversing the FCC’s attack on net neutrality still likely rests with the courts, an uphill effort to restore the FCC’s 2015 rules via Congress appears to have taken a small step forward this week.
The Congressional Review Act lets Congress reverse a regulatory action with a simply majority vote in the Senate and the House (which is how the GOP successfully killed FCC consumer broadband privacy protections last year). And while the Senate voted 52 to 47 back in May to reverse the FCC’s attack on net neutrality, companion efforts to set up a similar vote in the House have, as expected, had a hard time gaining traction thanks to ISP lobbying influence.
But things progressed slightly this week on the news that Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado agreed to be the first House Republican to sign off on the effort to restore the rules. But Coffman also introduced his own, new net neutrality legislation, and proclaims in a statement that he would be taking an “all of the above” approach to tackling the problem:
“The fight to keep the internet open belongs in Congress, not at the Federal Communications Commission,? said Representative Coffman. ?The American people deserve to know that their elected officials, not unelected bureaucrats, are fighting for their interest. That fight begins with my bill, which will create an ?internet constitution? with the foundational elements of net neutrality.”
?While my bill moves through the Congress, I am taking an ?all of the above? approach by simultaneously signing the discharge petition on the CRA, and introducing my bill? added Coffman.
A discharge petition needs 218 votes to even see floor time, and another 218 votes to pass the measure. So far however, the petition only currently has 172 likely votes — 173 with Coffman’s cooperation. It remains a steep uphill climb, and even if it passes it will need to avoid a veto by President Trump, who has yet to signal he has the faintest idea what the fight is even about.
As we’ve long noted, ISPs have spent the better part of fifteen years successfully (but idiotically) framing net neutrality as a partisan issue to sow debate and stall progress. Except the idea of keeping the internet a level playing field free from monopoly meddling has broad, bipartisan public support for what should be obvious reasons. The rules were a stop gap measure until somebody decided to actually do something about the lack of competition in the sector, something both parties have a long-standing habit of trying to ignore for fear of stifling AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast campaign contributions.
Coffman’s bill (pdf), meanwhile, comes amidst efforts by ISPs to pass legislation they wrote in a bid to prevent tougher state or federal rules from being passed (or the 2015 FCC rules being restored in case of a court loss). Having read the bill it’s weaker than the FCC’s 2015 rules, carving out numerous loopholes for things like interconnection shenanigans, usage caps and zero rating, and “reasonable network management” (a term ISPs love to abuse). It also isn’t likely to survive Marsha Blackburn’s committee in the House, since she has her own even weaker, ISP-favored legislation she’s been pushing.
It’s Coffman’s decision to join the CRA repeal that’s more interesting, though that effort too has a long way to go before it sees any serious traction. Politicians facing re-election may want to join to avoid being vilified by activists ahead of the midterms, but most House Republicans likely deem net neutrality as too confusing and fringe of an issue for their opposition to really pose much of an existential threat.