Senate Democrats Ready for Net Neutrality Fight
On Tuesday, Senate Democrats announced that their party had the votes necessary to overturn the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) recent decision to repeal Obama-era net neutrality regulations.
Last December, the FCC, led by Republican Chairman Ajit Pai, voted along party lines to lift tough rules set upon internet service providers (ISPs). Pai, a longtime critic of the stiff regulations on ISPs, has since been the subject of much backlash from both parties. In a recent poll conducted by the University of Maryland, 83% of overall voters were in favor of keeping the Obama-era net neutrality regulations.
The Senate has the authority to overturn the FCC’s decision through the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Passed in 1996, the Act “provides an expedited procedure for the Senate to disapprove regulatory rules issued by federal agencies by enacting a joint resolution of disapproval.”
The Democrats’ fight to protect net neutrality rules is led by Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass), who has introduced a resolution of disapproval to restore 2015 Open Internet Order. Markey has suggested that it is crucial to “prohibit ISPs from creating internet fast and slow lanes and ensure the Internet remains free and open to all.”
With the combined support of 49 Democratic and Independent Senators, Markey’s resolution has also caught the eye of Republican Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). A spokeswoman for Collins reported that “she [Collins] believes that a careful, deliberative process involving experts and the public is warranted to ensure that consumers have strong protections.”
Even with 50 votes, Democrats will need to see if other Republican Senators are willing to be on board with Markey’s resolution of disapproval. Given that Vice President Mike Pence will be the tie-breaking voice that votes against the resolution, Democrats are continuing to actively seek support amongst their Republican colleagues.
The Democrats must act fast if they want to overturn the FCC’s decision as the CRA grants Congress only 60 days to reverse the recent vote. While the fate of net neutrality is unclear, more than 20 states have filed suits against the FCC’s repeal of the Obama era net neutrality rules, expressing their discontent.