The "major milestone" achieved this week is the first step before a number of huge hurdles.
Senator Ed Markey is planning to file a resolution of disapproval. Image: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images
If you’ve been following the fight to regain net neutrality closely, you may have seen some optimistic news break this week. Tweets and headlines may have you believe that we’ve reached a major milestone in the effort to restore federal net neutrality protections, but many of these reports are getting ahead of themselves.
Here’s what happened: Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) has gotten the support of 29 other senators for his plan to introduce a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act. This would, if successful, overturn the Federal Communication Commission’s decision last month to scrap federal net neutrality rules. At least 30 senators have to support this kind of resolution for it to make it to a vote, so when Senator Claire Mccaskill (D-MO) threw her support behind it yesterday afternoon, they passed that threshold.
But, let me be blunt: this is barely a thing. It is the first tiny step towards a process that requires clearing multiple, very high hurdles to succeed. This resolution hasn’t even been introduced yet because the FCC hasn’t officially published its new rules in the Federal Register, or sent them to Congress. Senators can’t introduce a resolution of disapproval until there is something to officially disapprove, so these Senators haven’t really done anything other than say “yeah, sure, I’m into it.”
Once the FCC’s rules are published, the Senate has 60 days to introduce this resolution, which Sen. Markey has indicated he has every intention to do. Assuming he does, and assuming the Senators who have publicly pledged their support keep their word, then it will go to a vote on the Senate floor. It needs a simple majority to win. Though the GOP has a majority in the Senate, a handful of Republicans have expressed disapproval of the FCC’s decision, and the Dems only need the support of two Senators across the aisle to get this resolution passed. But that’s literally step one.
After the Senate, the resolution will have to pass the House, where Republicans greatly outnumber Democrats. Even though the FCC’s move was widely unpopular among voters, it will take a lot to convince dozens of Representatives to go against their own administration’s agency.
But let’s imagine somehow that happens—there is still one very important hurdle that I don’t think we can stress too strongly: President Donald Trump has to approve and sign the resolution for it to take effect. Trump would have to go against his own FCC’s decision. Or he could veto the whole thing and end it once and for all. This President is anything but predictable, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Trump sides with the Democrats and goes against his own FCC commissioner.
So is all hope lost? Of course not. While this process is still occuring, it’s worth calling your members of Congress to remind them where you stand on this issue, and that you haven’t let it go (nor will you let it go this fall during midterm elections, ahem). The process will also force politicians to publicly reveal where they stand on this crucial issue—valuable information for voters who care about an open internet.
There are also lawsuits being filed against the FCC’s decision, and many state legislatures are moving to adopt net neutrality rules in their home state to make up for the loss of the FCC rules. Here at Motherboard, we also advocate for taking back control of the internet by building it yourself, which we intend to help you do throughout the next year.
If you’re in favor of a free and open internet, now is not the time to pat yourself on the back and announce that we’ve “done it.” This fight is far from over.