By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
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On Thursday, the FCC's net neutrality rule was published in the Federal Register. This was the official start of the next phase of the campaign to protect the open Internet as a common carrier with equal access for all and without prejudice based on content (net neutrality).
There are multiple fronts of struggle to make net neutrality a reality: Congress, the courts, states and communities. This is part of a campaign to create an Internet for the 21st Century that is fast, reliable and available in all communities.
Polls show widespread support for net neutrality. Last year, polling found 77% of people in the United States "support keeping the net neutrality rules, which are already in place" and 87% agree that "people should be able to access any websites they want on the internet, without any blocking, slowing down, or throttling by their internet service providers." The FCC's net neutrality rule does the opposite of the national consensus, and if members of Congress want support from Internet users, they need to reverse the FCC's rule.
Repeal the FCC Anti-Net Neutrality Order In Congress
Under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress can reject a federal agency's decision. The net neutrality movement has 60 legislative days to push Congress to reverse the FCC's order and return net neutrality rules that reclassified the Internet under Title II of the Federal Communications Act. Title II classification ensured the Internet was a common carrier with equal access for all. The movement is working in both bodies of Congress to put elected officials on record for their positions so they can be held accountable.
Net neutrality proponents have been organizing for a Resolution of Disapproval under the CRA since the FCC announced its decision last December. There are already enough co-sponsors to ensure a vote in the Senate, but we are one vote away from victory. Right now all Senate Democrats, both independents, Senators Bernie Sanders (VT) and Angus King (ME), and one Republican, Susan Collins (ME), have agreed to vote for the resolution. This has the Senate in a tie, which would be broken by Vice President Mike Pence. There are several possible Republicans, e.g. Sen. John Kennedy (LA), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK), Sen. Dean Heller (NV), Sen. Dan Sullivan (AK), Sen. Cory Gardner (CO), and Sen. John McCain (AZ), who might join Collins in opposing the FCC rule.
Next Tuesday, February 27, the Internet coalition has organized a #OneMoreVote national day of action. Go to Battle for the Net's #OneMoreVote campaign to encourage your Senator to get behind the CRA. There will be a rally for the #OneMoveVote campaign outside the Senate in Washington, DC as part of the national day of action.
The Internet Service Providers' position is being advocated for by the right-wing group, Freedom Works, who defends the FCC's repeal of net neutrality. They will be holding a day of action on Monday. They are taking the CRA challenge seriously and can no longer ignore us.
There has also been organizing in the US House of Representatives. On January 16, Representative Mike Doyle (PA-14) unveiled the names of 82 original cosponsors of his CRA resolution. Including Doyle, the list totals 83 and includes House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. A majority of House members are needed to move forward.
This movement intends to make net neutrality an issue in the 2018 election. Republicans, in particular, are worried about a Trump-caused election against them, resulting in large numbers of retirements. Voters across the political spectrum support net neutrality. Republicans need to join the national consensus or pay a political price.
After we succeed in both Chambers, President Trump will need to decide if he is with the people or the telecoms. If we are successful in both Houses of Congress, we will have built a lot of political power that will be dangerous for Trump to ignore.
Net Neutrality in the Courts
The publication of the FCC rule repealing net neutrality also restarts litigation to challenge the FCC rule, which seeks an injunction to stop the rule from being implemented. State attorneys general, public interest groups and internet companies are all taking legal action in the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The goal is for the FCC rule to be remanded for reconsideration and for it to be enjoined pending the outcome of the litigation. Courts tend to favor federal agencies, but we have a strong case.
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