Democratic lawmakers are mounting a last-ditch effort to save net neutrality ahead of a crucial Senate vote on Wednesday, citing concerns that network providers could implement unfair business practices as the internet’s regulatory agency shifts from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FCC’s Internet Freedom Order, a new FCC rule meant to undo Obama-era internet regulations scheduled to take effect on June 11, will repeal net neutrality rules and make the FTC responsible for oversight of the internet. The order has stoked the fears of consumers, as deregulation of internet service providers (ISPs) could allow monoliths like Verizon, Time Warner, and Comcast to “throttle,” or prioritize, different traffic across the internet. One could ultimately, for example, pay a premium to stream a movie online versus merely reading an article.
Under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), lawmakers have 60 legislative working days after a rule or regulation is implemented to review and repeal it, and Sen. Edward J. Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, is leading an effort to repeal the FCC’s Internet Freedom Order and reestablish net neutrality at the federal level, highlighting, among other issues, the FTC’s lack of “rulemaking authority.”
“If the FTC has jurisdiction and internet service providers do not support net neutrality protections, there’s nothing the FTC can do to stop internet service providers from setting up online fast and slow lanes,” Markey told ABC News. “The FTC is simply not equipped to protect the free and open internet. It lacks rulemaking authority and has limited tools for preventing blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization by internet service providers.”
Markey is not alone. His office says Wednesday’s effort to repeal the Internet Freedom Order is supported by every Senate Democrat, as well as Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, putting the Senate vote to repeal net neutrality at a tie. If the Senate succeeds, the vote would then proceed to the House.
The CRA would require an additional majority in the House, which means 25 Republicans would have to vote in favor of the repeal if every Democrat voted favorably.
“We are working on getting the votes, and we’re optimistic that we can,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., when asked if the CRA majority vote could pose a hurdle.
If the House also repeals the rule, the rule would land on President Donald Trump’s desk for approval -- which, considering his designation of Ajit Pai as FCC Chairman in the first place, seems unlikely.
Under the new rules, the FCC would still watch over network providers to monitor how they disclose their business practices, but the FTC will regulate how internet service providers act toward each other and toward consumers. The FTC “will investigate and take enforcement action as appropriate against Internet service providers for unfair, deceptive, or otherwise unlawful practices,” according to a December 2017 “Memorandum of Understanding.” ...