Senate Push To Save Net Neutrality Needs Just One Vote, But You Still Shouldn't Get Your Hopes Up

from the reverse-the-reversal dept

A Congressional effort to reverse the FCC's attack on net neutrality needs just one vote to move forward, but still faces a very steep uphill climb toward success. Fifty senators have endorsed a legislative measure to use the Congressional Review Act to reverse the FCC's repeal of the rules. The CRA can be used to reverse any regulatory action with a majority vote in Congress, provided the vote occurs within 60 days of the regulatory action in question. With 49 Democrats and one Republican (Maine's Susan Collins) now supporting the effort, it needs just one Republican vote to forward, notes Senator Ed Markey:

"Momentum is building,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) told reporters at a Boston press conference on Tuesday. "There will be a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate to restore net neutrality as the law of the land,” Markey said. Under the Congressional Review Act it takes just 30 votes to bring a resolution to a vote and there would be a “price to pay” for lawmakers to side with the FCC. “Access to a free and open internet is and should be a 21st right—net neutrality forms the foundation of both our democracy and our economy."

The chance of this gambit's success have been consistently and routinely over-hyped by the well intentioned. Should the effort pass the Senate it still needs to secure floor time and win a vote in the House, where lawmakers like Marsha Blackburn have pretty routinely made protecting AT&T, Verizon and Comcast revenues their very top priority. Pennsylvania Representative Mike Doyle issued a statement listing the supporters currently signed on in the House, though that support remains well short of the threshold needed to run the gauntlet of ISP-beholden lawmakers there:

"We’ve made good progress so far in getting Members to sign on as original cosponsors of our bill to restore Net Neutrality, and I will continue to seek additional cosponsors in the weeks ahead,” Congressman Doyle said today in releasing the list of names. “There’s overwhelming public support for preserving Net Neutrality, so it’s no surprise that there’s strong support in Congress as well. I’m confident that if there’s enough public pressure, Congress will overturn the FCC’s order killing net neutrality."

Unlike the Senate, there's no rule that lets a minority of members force a vote, meaning even getting floor time could prove problematic. House supporters could use a discharge petition to bring a vote, but it would require a majority of members (218) to force a vote on the issue. Given this is the same House where members of both parties consistently trip over themselves to give sloppy kisses to AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, this could prove a tall order. Expectations should be in line with this reality.

If the effort gets through the House it would still need the signature of President Donald Trump. Activists I've talked to hope that should it get past Congress, Trump's tendency to bend whichever way the "populist" wind is blowing could get him to sign off on the proposal. But giving such a notable middle finger to his own FCC would be uncharacteristic given all the ISP money being spent on gutting all meaningful state and federal oversight of incumbent ISPs, and there will be plenty of well-funded pressure to ensure that doesn't happen.

While success here has long odds (though this shouldn't discourage you from contacting your lawmaker anyway), the gambit does have the practical purpose of forcing AT&T, Verizon and Comcast's lackeys in both houses to put their disdain for the public down on the public record. That's going to prove particularly useful during the looming midterms, where net neutrality is very quickly becoming a wedge issue. That's especially true among Millennial voters, who seem to have a more innate understanding of why letting Comcast run amok isn't a particularly great idea.

The entire effort again highlights the stupidity of viewing net neutrality through a partisan lens. Despite a healthy, competitive internet being in everybody's best interest, ISPs have spent fifteen years successfully framing net neutrality as a partisan issue to help sow dissent and stall progress on meaningful rules. Survey after survey however have indicated that the concept has broad, bipartisan support among the public at large. Anger at being ignored will drive voter turnout, and lawmakers (as well as Ajit Pai, whose post-FCC political ambitions couldn't be clearer) are going to figure that out the hard way.

All of that said, there's still plenty of ways to bring net neutrality back to the table should this effort fail. While it will take a while, the looming lawsuits have a solid chance at reversing the FCC's repeal given the FCC's numerous procedural and ethical missteps. A massive shakeup in Congress could also finally drive support for a real net neutrality law down the road, provided ISPs aren't successful in passing their own, entirely bogus legislation first.

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Filed Under: congress, fcc, house, net neutrality, senate


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2018 @ 9:01am

    Re: Re: Re:

    True.

    But since the FCC has the authority to classify and declassify as they see fit (provided doing so isn't arbitrary, capricious, harms consumers, and generally ignores all reason, logic, and facts), they still ultimately have the authority.

    They just have to make sure they follow proper procedure.

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