In the latest developments on the FCC’s repeal of Obama-era net-neutrality legislation, Senate Democrats are on the verge of achieving a majority vote that could eventually restore the consumer protections. At the same time, 22 states are suing to block the FCC’s repeal decision.
On December 14, the FCC voted to remove “common carrier” classification from ISPs. In removing the classification, the FCC removed its jurisdiction over ISPs. This gives them greater freedom to selectively throttle internet traffic to push their own content, effectively ending net neutrality. The FCC argued that the heavy-handed regulation stifled investment and that it was formally the role of the FTC to resolve any unscrupulous practices by ISPs. The move was viewed by many, however, as the result of lobbying efforts from the major carriers.
The build up to the vote was marked by substantial public and Senatorial resistance. One of the big cases for the opposition was New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigation into the possibly compromised public-hearing process for the decision. Internet protests and calls to halt the vote ultimately fell on deaf ears. Three weeks after the vote, the FCC formally released its plan to absolve itself from maintaining oversight of ISPs, giving them the ability to start building internet fast and slow lanes. The struggle to preserve net neutrality is still alive and well, however.
Senate One Vote From First Step In Overturning Repeal
Senator Ed Markey (D-HI) announced on Twitter that Senate Democrats are one vote away from being able to pass a Congressional Review Act (CRA) of the FCC’s decision. The CRA allows Congress to overrule any federal legislation within 60 days of its creation. Currently, the CRA has 50 of the 51 votes needed to pass in the Senate. The votes to pass it come from all 47 Democratic Senators, both independent Senators, and one Republican Senator. Senate Democrats are now calling for one more Republican to join their cause.
For the overruling to actually occur, however, the CRA will also have to pass in the House of Representatives, of which the Republicans currently have greater control. Providing it gets through the House, the CRA would ultimately land on the President’s desk to be signed into law. We don’t know if Trump would actually refuse signing it, but that could effectively veto it.
22 States Sign On To Sue FCC
In a separate and unrelated development, the attorneys general of 21 states have signed on with Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson to file a petition to appeal the FCC’s decision. The appeal is just the first move so states can try to independently block the repeal of net neutrality, says the Washington State Office of the Attorney General.
The petition is the first step by states to attempt to block the FCC’s decision, and it will allow the attorneys general to move forward with the appeal in the future.
The attorneys general allege that the FCC decision violates the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the process for federal agency rulemaking. The states also challenge the decision, stating that it violates the Constitution and the Communications Act of 1934.
The appeal follows Schneiderman’s earlier announcement, made on the day of the December 14 vote, that he would “lead a multistate lawsuit to stop the rollback of net neutrality.”