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 MarkeyLobbying World Focus on Yemen, not the Saudi crown prince Mattis: Investigation into killing of Khashoggi is ongoing MORE (D-Mass.) said that he and Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooRepresenting patients’ voices Dem lawmaker: 'There's plenty of competent females' that can be Speaker instead of Pelosi Heritage: Repealing GOP tax law would raise taxes in every district 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 SchumerSenators prepare for possibility of Christmas in Washington during a shutdown Mania at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Trump, Democratic leaders go toe-to-toe at White House 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. DoyleDems to ramp up oversight of Trump tech regulators Twitter chief faces GOP anger over bias at hearing Live coverage: Social media execs face grilling on Capitol Hill 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 ThuneOn The Money: Trump, Dems battle over border wall before cameras | Clash ups odds of shutdown | Senators stunned by Trump's shutdown threat | Pelosi calls wall 'a manhood thing' for Trump Senators dumbfounded by Trump vow to shut down government The Hill's Morning Report — Trump shakes up staff with eye on 2020, Mueller probe MORE (R-S.D.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenPuerto Ricans may have elected Rick Scott and other midterm surprises GOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing proposal Dems to ramp up oversight of Trump tech regulators 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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