News & Politics

Internet Defenders Say Net Neutrality Isn't Yet Dead As 'Most Important Battle' Begins

"Any lawmaker, of any party, that fails to sign the discharge petition in support of the CRA will regret it come election time."

Photo Credit: CBS News

As the FCC's rollback of net neutrality protections officially took effect on Monday, a broad coalition of free press and digital rights campaigners vowed to maintain pressure on members of Congress to either restore the federal rules "or prepare to face our wrath" in the November midterm elections.

Supporters of net neutrality rules—which require internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all online content equally—are aiming to convince House Speaker Paul Ryan and additional Republicans to support a Congressional Review Act (CRA) that would overturn the FCC's party-line vote.

Last month, a few Senate Republicans joined with Democrats to pass the CRA, which was spearheaded by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Don't let big tech control what news you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.

"Now we're fighting an uphill battle to get the House of Representatives to do the same," explains the BattleforNet coalition, which includes Fight for the Future, Free Press, and Demand Progress. "It's not going to be easy, but if the whole internet comes together to fight, we can win."

"In the House, we'll need 218 lawmakers to sign on to a 'discharge petition' in order to force a vote past leadership to the floor," the coalition's website outlines. "That means we'll need to convince all the Democrats and about 25 Republicans to support the CRA. The clock is ticking—if the CRA resolution doesn't get a vote this year, it dies when the new Congress comes into session."

Now that the repeal is in effect, ISPs "have the green light to begin degrading our access to the internet," said former FCC commissioner and Common Cause special adviser Michael Copps. "Monopoly phone and cable companies will undoubtedly seek to maximize profits by favoring their own content over their competitors and creating fast lanes and slow lanes ultimately at the expense of consumers."

With that in mind, Battle for the Net is promoting three ways constituents can urge their congressional represenatives to back the discharge petition:

  • flood them with calls and emails;
  • schedule in-person events, protests, meetings, and canvassing;
  • and encourage small business owners to sign a public petition pledging their support—because "in Washington, money talks," and lawmakers recognize the "vital" role those owners play in their districts.

Trump-appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, "a former Verizon lawyer, bucked the lawignored public opinion and twisted the facts to make his ill-advised case for handing control of the internet to the anti-competitive cabal of giant phone and cable companies," as Free Press's Timothy Karr noted in an op-ed on Monday.

"Poll after poll after poll after poll shows large majorities of Republican voters in opposition to the FCC's repeal," Karr pointed out. "Any Republican seeking re-election in the fall can't run from this polling data or from the people back home who demand real net neutrality."

"People are pissed off. And rightly so. The gutting of net neutrality is a symbol of our broken democracy. It's the worst of the worst that the D.C. swamp has to offer," Fight for the Future's Evan Greer said in a statementMonday.

"But it has sparked an unprecedented backlash from across the political spectrum, and internet users are coming out of the woodwork to fight tooth and nail in Congress, in the courts, and at the local and state level," she continued. "This summer we'll channel our anger productively and harness the power of the internet to mount an unprecedented district-by-district campaign to get Congress to do their job."

"The internet is coming for net neutrality. There is nowhere to hide," Greer concluded. "Any lawmaker, of any party, that fails to sign the discharge petition in support of the CRA will regret it come election time."

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow her on Twitter: @corbett_jessica.