On Monday, the death knell rang for net neutrality. It’s been 60 days since the FCC filed its plan to repeal open internet provisions in the Federal Register, making this week the beginning of an era where internet service providers will be given a lot more agency to decide how customers experience the internet.
However, the parts of the plan — inaccurately named the “Restoring Internet Freedom” plan — that modify data collection still have to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget, and the earliest that can happen is on April 27. More importantly, tech experts and internet activists are predicting that ISPs will buy their time before they begin charging users more for certain types of content or begin asking websites to fork over more cash in order to reach a wider audience.
That being said, there are several initiatives happening right now that are designed to stop the FCC’s plan. Lawmakers and activists both agree that better, more up-to-date, internet laws are the best way to solve this problem, which has been subject to Republican and Democrat-led regulatory bodies swaying back and forth about how to regulate the telecomm industry. In the meantime, a patchwork approach of federal, state and local strategies are starting to swing at the FCC from all sides.
4. State Laws and Municipal Contracts
Several states and municipalities have bowed to public pressure and decided to spearhead their own net neutrality protections. At time of writing, 31 different states have proposed legislation to adopt some form of net neutrality regulations. Governors in six states have also issued executive orders to ensure that only ISPs that uphold net neutrality will receive government contract work.
Only two states — Washington and Oregon — have already passed laws in their legislatures. Washington’s law goes into effect June 6, and its broad scope bans ISPs from tiering their services or blocking content. Oregon’s legislation inhibits state and local governments from acquiring any services from ISPs that don’t follow net neutrality provisions. Since the FCC’s new plan explicitly says that states can’t make their own rules, these laws will surely end up contested in court.
Similarly to Oregon, dozens of mayors have also signed a pledge stating that local governments will not engage in contracts with ISPs that don’t follow net neutrality rules.
3. Getting Governments to Treat the Internet Like a Utility
Another solution to the net neutrality debacle is to get local governments to build and run their own internet infrastructure. Writing in The Washington Post on Sunday, Mark Howell, the chief information officer for Concord, Massachusetts described how the town created a municipal broadband system that operates similar to water and electricity. “Fiber-optic cable is the type of decades-long infrastructure investment that municipalities are generally good at managing, such as sewer systems and roads,” he wrote.
“Our Internet service operates under rules set not by a for-profit company but by locally elected leaders and residents who volunteer to serve on the service’s board.”
2. Getting that One Vote for a Congressional Review Act
The Senate is still one vote shy of being able to force Congress to vote axing the “Restoring Internet Freedom” plan. If they manage to get the vote, it will force politicians to go on the record with their position on net neutrality — a worthy exercise in an election year — but even if the bill makes it to the President’s desk, no one actually believes he would approve it.
1. A Whole Bunch of Lawsuits
Mozilla, Vimeo, and 23 state attorneys have sued the FCC, arguing that its ruling to strip net neutrality provisions is “arbitrary and capricious.” The rationale here is that the FCC didn’t do its due diligence when deciding upon the new plan, including ignoring the fact that millions of fraudulent comments appeared on its website during a period last year when citizens were allowed to submit their opinions on Restoring Internet Freedom plan.
Lawsuits will likely start to move ahead soon now that the Restoring Internet Freedom is official, and various factions will be mobilizing in the coming months to fight the FCC’s new regulations. With that in mind, concerned users of the internet are being urged to remain vigilant — and loud. Net neutrality has become an increasingly bipartisan issue, and one that politicians will continue to pay attention to if voters make it a priority. After all, it’s an election year.
With files from Mary Von Aue and Kevin Litman-Navarro.