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 MarkeyOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report MORE (D-Mass.) said that he and Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooDem describes meeting Kavanaugh accuser in July: 'I told her that I believed her' Judiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh Graham: Who paid for Kavanaugh accuser's polygraph test? 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 SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation 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. DoyleTwitter chief faces GOP anger over bias at hearing Live coverage: Social media execs face grilling on Capitol Hill House Dems press FCC chairman for answers on false cyberattack claim 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 ThuneWant to improve health care? Get Americans off of their couches More Dems want focus on job creation than wage growth Google, Apple, Amazon execs to testify at Senate privacy hearing this month MORE (R-S.D.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHouse GOP blocks Trump-supported drug pricing provision from spending bill GOP turns its fire on Google Hillicon Valley: Twitter chief faces GOP anger over bias | DOJ convenes meeting on bias claims | Rubio clashes with Alex Jones | DHS chief urges lawmakers to pass cyber bill | Sanders bill takes aim at Amazon 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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