Technology

Dems introduce legislation to stop FCC net neutrality repeal

Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday introduced legislation in both chambers of Congress to reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of net neutrality rules.

The Senate legislation has the support of 50 lawmakers, including one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), meaning it is just one vote shy of the necessary number to pass in the upper chamber under rules that prevent a filibuster.

Even if Democrats could get support from one more GOP senator, a resolution to preserve the Obama-era net neutrality rules faces a steep uphill battle in the House. 

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Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said his net neutrality legislation has the backing of 150 lawmakers in the House. Still, if Democrats won over a majority in the House, President Trump is not expected to sign such a bill.

The clock is also ticking on the timeline for a net neutrality resolution. Democrats have a 60-day window to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to scrap with a simple majority the FCC’s order to end net neutrality rules, which started last week after the order was officially published in the Federal Register.

Despite stacked odds, Democrats are still pushing forward to keep the rules.

“We are just one vote away in the Senate from overturning the FCC’s terrible decision on net neutrality,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said to applause during a net neutrality press conference he held on Tuesday morning.

The Massachusetts senator was flanked at the event by top Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“And when we take this vote on the Senate floor, every one of my colleagues will have to answer this question: ‘Whose side are you on? Do you stand with hardworking American families for whom the internet is essential? Or do you stand with the big money, corporate interests and their army of lobbyists?” Markey said.

He and other Democrats say that they want to make net neutrality a 2018 election issue if they can’t beat back the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality.

“Democrats will be making net neutrality a major issue in the 2018 elections, and we will win,” Schumer said at the press conference.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) alleged that in scrapping net neutrality regulations, Republicans leading the FCC broke the law.

“If they continue to break the law, we will take them to court, he said.

Net neutrality legal battles are already beginning to play out. Immediately after the rules were published in the Federal Register last Thursday, several state attorneys general and technology companies such as Vimeo and Mozilla re-filed lawsuits to preserve the rules.

On the opposite side of the battle, broadband companies and their lobbying groups sharply criticized Democrats’ legislation on Tuesday.

“[The CRA] delays us from really providing consumers some basic protections on the internet,” Bob Quinn, AT&T senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, wrote in a blog post.

“This CRA would be a step backwards,” Broadband for America said in a statement. “Everyone agrees that preserving a free and open Internet for the future is an important goal, but Broadband For America does not believe that such a significant policy issue should be decided by an obscure legislative device that bypasses congressional debate and important input from the public.”

Companies like AT&T and groups like Broadband for America argue that the net neutrality rules are an example of excessive regulation and have inhibited investment in broadband in the U.S.

Updated at 2:28 p.m.

Tags Charles Schumer Donald Trump Ed Markey Frank Pallone Jr. Mike Doyle Nancy Pelosi Net neutrality Susan Collins

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