While U.S. net neutrality protections technically end on June 11, efforts to restore the rules continue. On Wednesday the Senate is now formally scheduled to hold a vote to try and use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to reverse the FCC repeal. The CRA can reverse a regulatory action with a majority vote in the House and Senate; it's what the GOP and Trump administration used to kill popular broadband privacy rules before they could take effect last year.
In a Statement, Senator Ed Markey called the May 16 vote the "most important vote for the internet in the history of the Senate":
"By passing my CRA resolution to put net neutrality back on the books, we can send a clear message to American families that we support them, not the special interest agenda of President Trump and his broadband baron allies. May 16 will be the most important vote for the internet in the history of the Senate, and I call on my Republicans colleagues to join this movement and stand on the right side of digital history."
It's believed that net neutrality supporters should have the votes they need to get the CRA effort through the Senate. Getting time and the necessary votes in the House, where ISP influence is more pervasive, is likely to be a taller order. And even if the measure makes its way through the House, Trump still has the ability to veto it. Net neutrality supporters believe that if they get that far they may be able to pander to Trump's "populist" side given the immense public support for net neutrality.
While stranger things have happened, that seems like a tall order for a President who has routinely indicated he has absolutely no earthly idea what net neutrality even is. And when Trump does talk about it, he clings tightly to the misleading narratives that have been pushed for years in certain media echo chambers thanks to the help of ISP lobbyists:
Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2014
Still, the CRA route does have the benefit of forcing net neutrality opponents to put their disdain for the internet and the will of the public down on paper ahead of the looming midterms. Given that 82% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats oppose the FCC's obnoxiously-named "restoring internet freedom" repeal, naming and shaming does serve a tactical purpose. After all, as we've routinely noted, there's absolutely nothing partisan about keeping the internet healthy, competitive, and free from arbitrary barriers anti-competitively erected by giant telecom monopolies.
That said, the best bet to reverse the FCC's attack on net neutrality rests with the courts. Or as Tim Wu, the man who coined the term net neutrality, recently put it:
"The problem for Mr. Pai is that government agencies are not free to abruptly reverse longstanding rules on which many have relied without a good reason, such as a change in factual circumstances. A mere change in F.C.C. ideology isn’t enough. As the Supreme Court has said, a federal agency must “examine the relevant data and articulate a satisfactory explanation for its action.” Given that net neutrality rules have been a huge success by most measures, the justification for killing them would have to be very strong.
It isn’t. In fact, it’s very weak."
Numerous lawsuits should heat up over the next few months highlighting how the FCC ignored the public and engaged in all manner of dodgy behavior to rush the repeal through. Should that fail, the best recourse for angry consumers is voting out lawmakers that prioritize monopoly profits over the health of the internet, and the welfare of consumers, startups, and small businesses. And the looming CRA vote, even if it fails, should make it much easier to clearly target those lawmakers in the voting booth during the midterms and beyond.