Calls for Congressional Involvement Arise after Net Neutrality Repeal

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai
Ajit Pai

WASHINGTON – Minutes after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 along party lines to repeal net neutrality rules last Thursday, reaction from both sides flooded in. It continues today – and may continue for years to come.

The new “Restoring Internet Freedom” order revokes the 2015 net neutrality rules, which reclassified broadband as a utility service and imposed some common carrier regulations on providers. The FCC’s vote also prohibits states from passing or enforcing their own broadband laws. 

Opponents of the vote to repeal net neutrality are now calling for Congress to step in and pass legislation to put the regulations back in place. BattleForTheNet.com and Team Internet have announced an internet-wide campaign to demand that Congress use a Resolution of Disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the FCC’s rulemaking.

“The backlash to the FCC’s attack on the internet has reached a boiling point,” the BattleForTheNet.com and Team Internet statement reads in part. “Now every member of Congress will have to go on the record and decide whether to stand up for the free and open internet or face the political consequences of awakening its wrath in an election year.”

At least one senator appears to be listening to that effort. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) plans to introduce a resolution to allow Congress to repeal recent regulations passed by agencies.

But those who backed the repeal are also looking to Congress. Both Comcast and Charter Communications are asking lawmakers to make the agency's takedown of the rules law. 

Immediately after the vote, Comcast’s top regulatory executive, David Cohen, wrote in a blog, “It’s now time for all of us to take advantage of this moment in time and end the cycle of regulatory ping pong we’ve been trapped in for over a decade and put this issue to rest once and for all. We really must have bipartisan congressional legislation to permanently preserve and solidify net neutrality protections for consumers and to provide ongoing certainty to ISPs and edge providers alike.” 

Charter added that such legislation “would provide permanent regulatory assurance and create an environment that allows for more long-term planning that will help us continue to provide even better broadband across our country.”

Meanwhile, lobbyists for broadband providers insist they will continue to follow at least some open internet principles.

“An open internet model is much more profitable than a closed model,” cable lobbyist and former FCC Chairman Michael Powell told reporters. “We make a lot of money because the network is open.”

And Bob Quinn, senior vice president of external and legislative affairs for AT&T, said in a statement, “For more than a decade … AT&T has consistently made clear that we provide broadband service in an open and transparent way. We do not block websites, nor censor online content, nor throttle or degrade traffic based on the content, nor unfairly discriminate in our treatment of internet traffic. In short, the internet will continue to work tomorrow just as it always has.”

Still, some analysts say the repeal vote allows ISPs to regulate themselves.

Michael Fauscette, chief research officer at G2 Crowd, said consumers should look for “the return of fast lanes – and, of course, slow lanes – which will cost many companies, but will also ultimately cost consumers and restrict the free flow of information across the internet. There will be plenty of lawsuits attempting to put the protections back in place, so this is not over.”