Washington, DC, USA: The Federal Communications Commission, FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules, which required internet service providers to offer equal access to all web content, took effect on Monday.The Obama-era net neutrality/open internet rules prohibited internet providers from charging more for certain content or from giving preferential treatment to certain websites.
After the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to repeal the rules in December, it faced a public outcry, legal challenges from state attorneys general and public interest groups, and a push by Democratic lawmakers to overturn the decision.
The opponents argued that the repeal would open the door for service providers to censor content online or charge additional fees for better service — something that could hurt small companies — and several states have taken steps to impose the rules on a local level.
“Now, on June 11, these unnecessary and harmful internet regulations will be repealed and the bipartisan, light-touch approach that served the online world well for nearly 20 years will be restored,” FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, earlier said.
“The agency failed to listen to the American public and gave short shrift to their deeply held belief that internet openness should remain the law of the land,” FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel told reporters. “The FCC is on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American people.”
Trump’s pick to run the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, called the net neutrality rules “heavy-handed” and vowed to end them. His order, touted as promoting investment and broadband deployment, loosens the FCC’s regulation of ISPs, and instead gives the Federal Trade Commission jurisdiction to enforce violations. Pai says this system lets the FTC focus on “the bad apples” and allows other players “thrive in a free market.”
The new Trump FCC order permits ISPs to throttle, block, or be paid to prioritize certain sites or content, as long as they disclose that they are doing so.
Ajit Pai’s announcement came right after a bipartisan group of Senators introduced a discharge petition, officially challenging the FCC’s rollback of the Obama-era net neutrality rules. The petition will require a majority vote in the Senate and House of Representatives, along with the signature of President Donald Trump, so it has a long way to go, but the vote could take place as early as next week.
The FCC’s decision was published in the Federal Register on February 22nd and as per the Congressional Review Act, the Senate had 60 days from that date to take action.
The Senate version of the bill to Ooverturning FCC’s Net Neutrality rollback passed 52-47. Three Republican Senators joined their Democratic colleagues in supporting the bill – Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and John Kennedy (Louisiana) and Susan Collins (Maine).
Congressional Review Act (CRA) bills allow Congress to overturn agency decisions with majority votes in each chamber, and a signature from the president.
The legislative victory in the Senate is fleeting because the House does not intend to take similar action, but Democrats are planning to carry the political fight over internet access into the 2018 midterms. Even if it passes the House, Trump is not expected to sign.
Regardless, House democrats led by Michael F. Doyle, Democrat, U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 14th congressional district, said that he intends to launch a discharge petition in an order to force a House vote on reinstating the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules – after the Senate passed a bill to overturn the repeal.
At the same press conference, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) called on Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) to bring the CRA to the House floor, urging Republicans to back it.
Most Republican lawmakers argue that the Obama net neutrality rules is a case of over regulation.
Across the country, state officials have moved to keep net neutrality rules in place on their turf. According to the National Council of State Legislatures, governors in six states — New Jersey, New York, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont and Hawaii — have signed executive orders upholding net neutrality, and three – Washington, Vermont and Oregon — have enacted legislation that does so.
In January, attorneys general in 22 states and the District of Columbia filed a protective petition for review of the order.