Why Congress’s Fight for Net Neutrality Has a Long Way to Go

Here's what still needs to happen. 


If yesterday’s vote in the Senate is any indication, net neutrality is increasingly becoming a bipartisan issue. Three Republican senators signed on to legislation aimed at squashing the Federal Communication Commissions’s new plan to deregulate the internet.

With a 52 to 47 win, the joint resolution — which would effectively nullify FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s poorly named “Restoring Internet Freedom” plan and leave Obama-era net neutrality protections in place — now goes to the House. At this point, however, there are a lot of challenges to actually getting this legislation passed by Congress in order to protect net neutrality.

Ajit Pai’s New Plan Will Still Take Effect in June

Last week, the FCC announced that the Restoring Internet Freedom plan would finally move ahead on June 11, after crucial pieces were approved by the Office of Management and Budget. However, the dismantling of the internet as we know it probably won’t happen overnight.

Internet activists believe that internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon will try to avoid a PR disaster by taking their time to enact paid prioritization for customers, as well as any blocking or throttling of content that doesn’t profit them.

The Chances that a Net Neutrality Resolution Will Pass in the House

The joint resolution can now be brought up for a vote in the House. When that will happen is still unknown.

According to the open internet organization Fight for the Future, 218 lawmakers will need to support the legislation in order for it to pass the House, and that would include all Democrats and about 25 Republicans.

Considering the last vote was hailed a victory for acquiring three Republicans (Susan Collins of Maine, John Kennedy of Louisiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) this could prove a hard sell. However, as net neutrality has managed to become something of a bipartisan issue, and this is an election year, we might see some Republicans stray away from the light touch internet regulation the FCC is promoting.

In order to sway lawmakers, organizations like Fight For the Future, as well as internet companies like Reddit will be continuing to campaign for net neutrality, and are currently asking voters to contact their members of Congress. On Wednesday, Reddit, which has coordinated pro-net neutrality campaigns since last year, posted a thank you announcement following the Senate vote.

“We’re going to keep an eye on things as they develop in the House and then evaluate the next course of action (let us know if you have ideas!),” wrote admin u/arabscarab. “But yes, if this is important to you, there is no reason not to start letting your Representative know now. They need to know that their constituents care about this.”

How Long Does the House Have to Pass this Legislation?

Despite being able to vote on repealing the FCC’s plan even after it goes into effect in June, Congress is still on a tight deadline. The resolution will have to get a vote this year, before a new Congress sits in January 2019.

There’s One More Step After Congress…

If the legislation does manage to gather enough votes on each side of the aisle to pass, it will land on President Donald Trump’s desk. Considering he specifically appointed Pai to his position as FCC chairman, he’s unlikely to sign a piece of law that contradicts his own hire. Still, Trump has been known to flip-flop from strong-held positions in the past.

Earlier this month, Politico also reported that Earl Comstock, a high-ranking White House official and deputy to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, has been advising the administration that the President back the pro-net neutrality resolution.

Net neutrality isn’t dead in the water just yet.

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