Week ahead in tech: Net neutrality fight heads to the courts

Week ahead in tech: Net neutrality fight heads to the courts
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The fight over the net neutrality rules is now headed to the courts.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 along party lines Thursday to approve Republican Chairman Ajit Pai's plan to scrap the Obama-era rules requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all web traffic equally.

The dramatic vote came amid protests and despite a lengthy campaign by net neutrality advocates to save the rules.

But supporters are not ready to throw in the towel.

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Immediately after the FCC vote, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) said that he would lead a lawsuit with other state attorneys general to stop the FCC from ending the rules.

"Today's rollback will give ISPs new ways to control what we see, what we do, and what we say online," Schneiderman said in a statement Thursday. "That's a threat to the free exchange of ideas that's made the Internet a valuable asset in our democratic process."

Shortly after, Washington's Attorney General Bob Ferguson also announced his plans to sue the FCC.

Expect more attorneys general to jump on board.

Net neutrality supporters have expressed optimism about their court challenge.

Even before the vote, at a rally for net neutrality outside the FCC, Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyKennedy, Markey neck-and-neck in Massachusetts primary: poll Overnight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development MORE (D-Mass.) said that he and Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHillicon Valley: US hits Huawei with new charges | Judge orders Pentagon to halt 'war cloud' work amid Amazon challenge | IRS removes guidance on Fortnite game currency Democrats criticize FCC for not taking action against DC station broadcasting Russian disinformation Gillibrand proposes creating new digital privacy agency MORE (D-Calif.) would file an amicus brief in support of any litigation on net neutrality.

"We think we have a very good chance of winning in court," Markey told The Hill Thursday. "Our legal experts feel very confident about that."

Democrats in Congress aren't waiting on the courts to settle the issue though.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE (D-N.Y.) is also vowing to force a vote on net neutrality in the upper chamber using the Congressional Review Act (CRA).

The act allows Congress to repeal agency rules with just a simple majority in the House and Senate. Republicans used the act frequently in the early days of the Trump administration to undo a slew of Obama-era rules.

"This CRA doesn't need the support of the majority leader," Schumer said Friday. "We can bring it to the floor and force a vote. So, there will be a vote to repeal the rule that the FCC passed."

Democrats will use a bill introduced by Markey to restore net neutrality into law. Rep. Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleBottom Line Hillicon Valley: Trump turns up heat on Apple over gunman's phone | Mnuchin says Huawei won't be 'chess piece' in trade talks | Dems seek briefing on Iranian cyber threats | Buttigieg loses cyber chief House Democrats request briefings on Iranian cyber threats from DHS, FCC MORE (D-Pa.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Communications and Technology is introducing similar legislation in the House.

It is unlikely Democrats will be successful with Republicans in control of both chambers. While a few Republicans criticized the FCC's move to scrap net neutrality, it is unclear whether any would back a Democratic bill to restore the rules.

Some Democrats have also pushed for a legislative fix to net neutrality, but there is little momentum for that option.

The heads of the relevant panels, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneRepublicans give Barr vote of confidence Trump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick GOP casts Sanders as 2020 boogeyman MORE (R-S.D.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenOvernight Energy: Green groups to sue over Trump rollback of Obama water rules | GOP climate plan faces pushback from right | Bezos launches B climate initiative GOP climate plan faces pushback — from Republicans Coalition plan seeks to cut carbon emissions in half by 2035 MORE (R-Ore.) have praised Pai's efforts and have dismissed Democrats' offers to work on compromise legislation to preserve net neutrality principles.

 

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