Senators Force Vote In Effort To Restore Net Neutrality

by Samuel Abasi Posted on May 9th, 2018

Washington, DC, USA: Senate Democrats,  on Wednesday,  filed a petition that will force a vote on the Federal Communications Commission, FCC, removal of net neutrality protections.  “I believe today kicks off the most important week for the internet that the Senate has ever seen,” Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) said in a speech today.

While the Democrats had enough signatures to call for a vote, they’re still one person away from actually overturning the FCC decision.

Senator Markey said today that there are already 160 Representatives on board, but that’s far from the 218 needed for a vote to restore net neutrality.

Even if that effort is successful, President Donald Trump could still overturn the measure with a veto.

In order to encourage one more Senator to join every Democrat and the one Republican who have committed to vote for net neutrality, BattleForTheNet.com launched its Red Alert campaign today to “save net neutrality and stop ISPs from ruining the Internet”. A number of companies including Reddit, Tinder, Match.com, OkCupid, TripAdvisor, Tumblr, Etsy, Wikimedia and GitHub are posting red alerts on their sites today urging visitors to contact their Senators and express their support for net neutrality.

Today we are officially filing the petition to force a Senate vote protecting #NetNeutrality – the essential foundation of our free, open internet. — Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) May 9, 2018

“The internet is lighting up in protest once again because this Senate vote will impact the future of the web for years to come,” Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement. “This is the most important moment in tech policy since the FCC repeal and everyone should be paying attention. This is the moment for entire web to come together to fight. Net neutrality is not a partisan issue outside of Washington DC. Now we need to get DC to catch up with the rest of the country.”

If they get that last needed vote and successfully overturn the FCC decision, the House of Representatives will have to take a similar measure.

Today is the day. @SenateDems are officially filing the petition that allows us to force a vote on the Senate floor to save #NetNeutrality. But we still need #OneMoreVote to get it done. If you want to protect a free & open internet, make your voices heard before it’s too late!  — Senator Cortez Masto (@SenCortezMasto) May 9, 2018

The FCC’s decision was published in the Federal Register on February 22nd and as per the Congressional Review Act, the Senate has 60 days from that date to take action.

EARLIER: 23 States Sue Trump FCC To Preserve Obama-Era Net Neutrality – A coalition of 23 state attorneys general formally challenged the FCC rollback of Obama-era net neutrality rules – open internet – at the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Thursday, on the grounds that the rollback was passed in violation of federal law.

The petition was cosigned by attorneys general in the following states: New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Mississippi, as well as New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

The coalition’s suit — or petition for review – refers to the FCC’s order as “arbitrary” and “capricious” and challenges the agency’s ability to reclassify broadband without review under Administrative Procedures Act; it contends the order violations federal law, “including, but not limited to,” the US Constitution and the Communications Act of 1934; and further alleges that the order was promulgated in violation of agency rulemaking requirements.

The leader of the coalition, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, said in a statement that the Federal Communication Commission order, published in the federal register earlier Thursday, would permit broadband providers to “put corporate profits over consumers” by way of controlling what they “see, do and say online.”

“An open internet, and the free exchange of ideas it allows, is critical to our democratic process,” said Schneiderman.

In mid-December, the FCC’s Republican majority voted in favor of what it ironically called “Restoring Internet Freedom” order, which overturned Obama-era net neutrality rules preventing internet service providers from blocking or throttling content or creating “fast lanes” to provide better service for companies that pay for it. It further rolled back the classification of ISPs that provided the basis for the rules, which passed in 2015 under a Democratic majority.

The public interest group, Public Knowledge, and New America’s Open Technology Institute filed protective filings, likewise challenging the order, last month at the same US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. It is not yet known in which court the case will be invariably heard, however.

Free Press, a net neutrality advocacy group, filed its petition in the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Massachusetts last month and announce plans Thursday to refile soon. California’s Santa Clara County previously filed a petition in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Venue will ultimately be determined by lottery via the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. Each court will be entered into the lottery once regardless of how many parties filed there. The outcome is determined randomly by computer. Parties interested in determining venue have 10 days to file, whereas those simply interesting in joining the suit have 60 days to do so.

Net neutrality advocacy continue to push for a vote on a congressional resolution to invalidate the Restoring Internet Freedom order. Congress has 60 “session days” as of today to force a vote on the issue, which requires a simply majority in both the House and Senate.

Fifty senators, including one Republican, have so far come aboard, prompting the hashtag #OneMoreVote on Twitter.

The congressional resolution faces tougher odds in the House and it seems unlikely that President Trump would sign it. Even if the resolution failed, however, the vote itself would force every congressional lawmaker to openly declare a side on the issue, potentially arming political activists in the midterm elections; the issue being a potent tool for rallying young voters.

The Internet Association, IA, a trade group representing 40 of the country’s biggest tech companies, including Google, Amazon, and Facebook, announced last month plans to intervene in the case against the FCC. While not a formal party to this particular suit, the IA will have the opportunity to demonstrate how the order might injure its member companies.

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Samuel Abasi

Samuel Abasi

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