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Despite public outrage and Congressional pressure, Chairman Ajit Pai succeeded in his repeal of vital net neutrality rules at the Federal Communications Commission’s last open meeting of 2017. This attack on the open internet also rolled back Title II classification of broadband and abdicated the FCC’s regulatory authority over the internet to the Federal Trade Commission.
We may have lost the vote at the FCC, but the fight isn’t over yet. Now it moves to two new venues, both of which will require public support.
Chairman Pai may have ignored millions of Americans, but he can’t ignore Congress. Members of Congress have the ability and the authority to quickly reverse Chairman Pai’s unprecedented rulemaking through a law called the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Put simply, members of Congress can act to nullify the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality by introducing and passing a resolution of disapproval as soon as the FCC’s new Order has been both published in the Federal Register and sent to Congress in an official report. After that, members of Congress have 60 legislative days to introduce a resolution of disapproval that cannot be amended or blocked by filibuster.
Shortly after the FCC vote on Thursday, Senator Edward Markey kicked off the process and announced his plans to introduce a CRA to counteract the FCC’s actions. Nineteen senators have come out in support of this plan, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and that number is continuing to grow. Another CRA resolution was promised in the House of Representatives by Representative Mike Doyle. A CRA resolution would restore the rules codified by the 2015 Open Internet Order and upheld by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals twice. An interactive, longform chart explaining the complete CRA process can be found here.
But what about other legislation? It’s true, some members of Congress have introduced or proposed introducing a bills to enshrine net neutrality into law. Unfortunately, at this time, none of those proposals offer full net neutrality protections, while preserving general FCC power to protect consumers on other important broadband issues. This is something Public Knowledge President Gene Kimmelman warned against in his testimony on net neutrality in 2015. Americans should be careful about accepting a weak substitute for net neutrality when we’ve had strong rules under current FCC jurisdiction that can be restored by Congress with a CRA vote.
Challenging the FCC Repeal in Court
There is another course of action beyond Congress. Public Knowledge has a long, successful history of standing up for net neutrality rules and enforcement in court. We believe there is a strong case for overturning the FCC’s order repealing net neutrality rules this time around and will be working to prepare for that opportunity.
Here’s what you can do to help:
Contact Congress: Visit our Take Action page to your representatives in Congress, and ask them to support a CRA resolution of disapproval and overturn the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. Chairman Pai ignored the will of the public, but members of Congress cannot ignore their constituents without electoral consequences.
Donate: Support Public Knowledge’s legal work by contributing online here.
This fight is far from over, and we are prepared to continue our long-term commitment to defending an open and accessible internet for all.
About Chris Lewis
Chris Lewis is President and CEO at Public Knowledge. Prior to being elevated to President and CEO, Chris served for as PK’s Vice President from 2012 to 2019 where he led the organization’s day-to-day advocacy and political strategy on Capitol Hill and at government agencies. During that time he also served as a local elected official, serving two terms on the Alexandria City Public School Board. Chris serves on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Local Self Reliance and represents Public Knowledge on the Board of the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group (BITAG). Before joining Public Knowledge, Chris worked in the Federal Communications Commission Office of Legislative Affairs, including as its Deputy Director. He is a former U.S. Senate staffer for the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and has over 18 years of political organizing and advocacy experience, including serving as Virginia State Director at GenerationEngage, and working as the North Carolina Field Director for Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential Campaign and other roles throughout the campaign. Chris graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelors degree in Government and lives in Alexandria, VA where he continues to volunteer and advocate on local civic issues.