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 MarkeyBen & Jerry's backs Green New Deal: 'We have to act now' Warren praises Ocasio-Cortez in Time 100 The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems prep for Mueller report's release MORE (D-Mass.) said that he and Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHouse Democrats probe Trump administration's funding of anti-abortion group Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid will cause overall health-care costs to rise Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — FDA issues proposal to limit sales of flavored e-cigs | Trump health chief gets grilling | Divisions emerge over House drug pricing bills | Dems launch investigation into short-term health plans 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 SchumerDem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage Former FBI official praises Barr for 'professional' press conference Pelosi: Barr press briefing a 'staggering partisan effort' 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. DoyleHouse votes to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality rules House panel approves bill reinstating net neutrality rules House Dems plan April vote on net neutrality bill 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 ThuneTelehealth is calling — will Congress pick up? GOP grows tired of being blindsided by Trump Hillicon Valley: Assange faces US charges after arrest | Trump says WikiLeaks 'not my thing' | Uber officially files to go public | Bezos challenges retail rivals on wages | Kremlin tightens its control over internet MORE (R-S.D.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenConservative groups defend tech from GOP crackdown Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Sanders unveils new Medicare for all bill with backing from other 2020 Dems | White House slams Sanders' rollout | Drugmakers, 'middlemen' point fingers on insulin pricing House votes to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality rules 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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