The effort to block the FCC's repeal of net neutrality just hit an important milestone
- A 30th senator — Missouri's Claire McCaskill — has signed on to sponsor a resolution that would nullify the Federal Communications Commission's vote to repeal its net-neutrality rules.
- That number is significant because 30 senators are needed to force a floor vote on the resolution.
- The resolution doesn't have any Republican sponsors, making passage doubtful — but a floor vote could force Republican senators to publicly voice support for the FCC's unpopular move.
The effort to overturn the Federal Communications Commission's recent repeal of its net-neutrality rules just crossed an important threshold.
Thirty senators have now signed on to co-sponsor a resolution that would nullify the repeal, Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts announced Monday on Twitter.
That's significant because it's the number of senators needed to essentially force a vote on the FCC's move.
In his tweet, Markey called reaching the 30-senator plateau "a big step toward restoring a free and open internet."
Last month, the FCC voted along party lines to eliminate its 2015 net-neutrality rules. Those rules, which capped a decade of the agency's efforts, barred broadband service providers from blocking, slowing, or providing preferred access to particular websites or services.
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Without those rules, providers will be free to block customers from accessing rival services or slow down their access to Netflix, for example, as long as they tell customers what they're doing — though the Federal Trade Commission is supposed to watch for severely anticompetitive moves.
Missouri's Claire McCaskill is the latest senator to sign on to the nullification effort, according to Free Press, a consumer-rights group that supports the net-neutrality rules the FCC voted to repeal. The other sponsors include 29 Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who votes with the party.
The resolution was drafted under the Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress the authority to overturn new regulations issued by federal agencies with a simple-majority vote in both houses. Previously a seldom used, obscure law, the CRA was used multiple times last year to overturn regulations issued in the final days of the Obama administration.
There are much bigger challenges ahead for overturning the FCC's move
Though Democrats now have enough support to force the resolution to a vote in the Senate, they have much steeper barriers in getting it adopted.
The fact that no Republicans have signed onto the resolution means it's likely to be defeated in a floor vote. And even if Congress passes the resolution, President Donald Trump most likely would stand with Ajit Pai — the FCC's chairman whom he appointed and who led the effort to repeal the net-neutrality rules — and veto it.
Still, Free Press and others are pushing forward, noting that the net neutrality rules are widely popular. A University of Maryland poll last month found they were supported by 83% of Americans, including 75% of Republicans. By forcing a floor vote on the resolution to nullify the repeal, supporters of net neutrality could make Republican legislators go on record about whether they support net neutrality or not, something that could be used as a campaign issue in this fall's mid-term elections.
"Supporting net neutrality should be a no-brainer for members of Congress, whose constituents from across the political spectrum are united in their opposition to the Trump FCC’s attack on the open internet," Matt Wood, Free Press' Action Fund policy director, said in a statement.
He continued: "Regardless of party affiliation, all elected officials should stand with their constituents and restore the 2015 protections that protect free speech, choice and innovation online."
The FCC's move to repeal its net neutrality rules has been harshly criticized not only by consumer groups including the Free Press, but has also led to threats against Pai and the agencies.
McCaskill's decision to co-sponsor Markey's resolution comes days after Pai pulled out of a planned appearance at this week's CES tech industry convention after reportedly receiving death threats. Pai's move raised eyebrows, because the current or incoming FCC chairman has spoken every year since 2009, and he likely would have been put on the spot about the net-neutrality repeal.
The senator's move also comes as a separate effort to overturn the FCC's net-neutrality repeal is gaining momentum. On Friday, the Internet Association, a trade group representing online companies including Facebook and Google, said it plans to sign on to an expected lawsuit that will seek to block the repeal in the courts. The online giants took few overt steps to oppose the FCC's repeal in the days leading up to the FCC's vote last month.
- Stephen Miller had to be escorted off CNN's set after his interview with Jake Tapper went off the rails
- The FCC chairman received death threats before canceling his CES appearance
- The FCC boss, who led the push to kill net neutrality, just cancelled plans to speak at the biggest tech conference of the year