One Congressman Has a Last Ditch Effort to Save Net Neutrality

There’s a house vote tomorrow evening.

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Dec 12 2017, 8:04pm

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney campaigning in 2012. Image: WikiMedia Commons

In a dramatic, likely futile last-ditch effort, a House Representative has introduced a bill designed to block the Federal Communications Commission from repealing net neutrality rules. It would do this by prohibiting the FCC from using its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the issue in making any decisions, due to the fact that the public comments on that notice were compromised.

The Save Net Neutrality Act (H.R. 4585) was introduced in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce last week. It is largely a symbolic gesture, because Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) would have to find a way to get it on the floor for a vote tomorrow, pass, then have it pass the Senate, and then have President Trump sign it, all before the FCC’s vote Thursday. This would be a quick timeline for any legislation, and considering that many Republicans have publicly supported repealing the net neutrality protections and the GOP controls Congress and the White House. To call it a Hail Mary would be generous; the plan would seem to be dead on arrival. But with mounting pressure from the public and literally no action so far from Congress, it’s just about all Maloney can do before the vote.

“The FCC’s proposal to screw up your internet is just about the worst plan I’ve seen—the comment period was a mess and the rest of the proposal is full of holes,” Rep. Maloney said in a press release. “My bill would stop this rule from going into effect and keep the internet the way it is—affordable, open, and full of innovation.”

The crux of bill relies on the fact that Administrative Procedure Act (APA) requires agencies to consider public comments during the NPRM process. But that public comment period has been under major scrutiny. By some analyses, more than 80 percent of net neutrality comments were sent by bots. Hundreds of comments were sent by fake accounts—including 7,500 comments from the email address example@example.com—and only 3 percent of comments were verified, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.

Because of this, Maloney argues the process has been compromised, and is no longer adhering to the APA. If this bill did passed, it would mean the FCC—which is set to vote on net neutrality this Thursday—wouldn’t be able to touch any of the net neutrality rules any time soon. It would have to start all over, with a new NPRM and a new public comment period.

Many net neutrality proponents have already started to look ahead at next steps, assuming the FCC’s decision is inevitable. But there’s at least one other story that could play out before the moment of truth, and if it’s one you’re passionate about, you might want to call your member of Congress.

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