The continued battle for net neutrality

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Grant Scarboro

On May 16, 2018, the United States Senate voted 52-47 to reverse the FCC’s “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” via the Congressional Review Act. The “Restoring Internet Freedom Order”, if it goes into effect, would end the public-utility regulation of internet service providers that has occurred since 2015. Opponents of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s repeal say that undoing the net neutrality regulations on ISPs would give them the ability to block and throttle the speed of certain websites in favor of others, give their own websites as well as other large companies such as Google and Disney “fast-lanes” or faster connections in exchange for paying a toll that smaller businesses wouldn’t be able to afford. Furthermore, opponents of the repeal also fear that ISPs will create paid packages for websites, much like television channels. Opponents of the repeal include small business, consumer advocacy groups, most Democrats, tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, online video creators and many more.

This effort to undo Ajit Pai’s net neutrality repeal will now head to the House of Representatives, where it seems as it will be a much steeper battle than in the Senate. In the 52-47 Senate vote, three Republican senators, Susan Collins (ME), John Kennedy (LA) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) broke party lines to decide the vote. Furthermore, another Republican senator, John McCain (AZ) didn’t vote due to his continued battle with brain cancer. The House, however, is split between 234 Republicans and 193 Democrats, with 218 signatures needed in order for the CRA to pass the House, meaning that along with all House Democrats, 25 House Republicans will also have to sign onto the CRA. Furthermore, even if the CRA gets passed the House, it will need to be signed by President Donald Trump in order for the undoing of Pai’s net neutrality repeal to be complete. Since President Trump was the man who gave Ajit Pai the position of Chairman of the FCC in the first place, Trump signing onto the CRA currently seems unlikely.

The fight to save net neutrality isn’t only being fought in Congress, it is also being fought in the courts, with tech companies such as Mozilla, advocacy groups such as Free Press, and even a group of over 20 state’s Attorney Generals, led by NY Att. Gen. Eric Schneiderman have filed lawsuits against the FCC for their decision to roll back the net neutrality rules. Additionally, in spite of the repeal saying that states are preemptively banned from passing their own net neutrality laws, numerous states have already defied this rule. The state governors of New York, Montana, Vermont, Hawaii and New Jersey have all signed executive orders to preserve the old 2015 rules. In the states of Oregon and Washington, laws have even been passed legislatively that are also designed to preserve net neutrality. Two other states, California and New York, might also pass net neutrality laws that would be even stronger than the 2015 rules.

The battle to save net neutrality and the free and open internet is being fought on multiple fronts. However, the only reason there has so much momentum to save net neutrality is because of the continued pressure being put onto politicians, Democratic, Republican and Independent alike by their constituents. Now citizens need to contact their representatives of the House in order for the CRA to pass both parts of Congress.

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