The FCC has published its net neutrality rules repeal in the Federal Register, a process that spells the beginning of the end for a free and open internet. Publishing the final notice of the repeal, which the FCC voted on late last year, triggers a 60-day countdown until the rules are removed.
At that point, the only thing standing between your internet service provider and a throttled internet dystopia is a pinky-swear promise from the ISPs not to do anything nasty, and that’s not even worth the web page it’s written on.
Not all hope has to be abandoned just yet, however. Posting the notice of the repeal in the federal register also makes it possible for it to be legally challenged, or overturned by lawmakers using the Congressional Review Act. House Democrats have already put forward a bill using the CRA, a little-known piece of legislation that up to now, had almost exclusively been used by Republicans to overturn federal rules put in place by the Obama administration. Against all the odds, the bill is collecting co-sponsors and even Republican support, and it now looks like it has a realistic chance of getting the votes to pass through the Senate.
Democrats have enough votes to force an up-or-down vote on the bill through the Senate, and if they can get just one more Republican senator to flip, it’ll pass. However, the chances of preserving net neutrality via the Congressional Review Act seem slim. A bill would have to pass the House of Representatives, where Republicans have firmer control, and then be signed into law by President Trump. Given that he backed the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality provisions, the chances of that happening seem slim right now. Nonetheless, it’s a politically savvy move by Democrats to force Republicans into supporting a policy that’s overwhelmingly unpopular in an election year.
“Now it’s officially go time, and the Internet is gearing up for a hell of a fight,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future. “The CRA is the clearest path to restore net neutrality protections that never should have been taken away in the first place. A vote is imminent, and every senator needs to decide right now whether they’re going to listen to their constituents or go down in history as having voted against the free and open Internet.”
Meanwhile, state attorney generals have already signalled their intention to file lawsuits challenging the net neutrality repeal in court, as have pro-net-neutrality advocacy groups.
Mignon Clyburn, one of the two Democractic FCC commissioners who has fought for net neutrality, said she is “both disappointed and hopeful. Disappointed that this is one more anti-consumer notch on this FCC’s belt, but hopeful that the arc of history is bent in favor of net neutrality protections. Whether it is litigation, state action, or some other mechanism that brings it about, I am sure that robust net neutrality protections will prevail with the American public.”