On Wednesday, Senate Democrats plan to move to proceed with a floor vote on Sen. Ed Markey’s (D., Mass.) Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to undo the FCC’s December 2017 restoring Internet freedom (RIF) action.
Senate Democrats filed a discharge petition for the resolution last week (TR Daily, May 9), which requires 30 signatures and enables them to move for a vote without the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.).
All 49 members of the Senate Democratic caucus have pledged support for the CRA resolution, along with Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), so the resolution only needs to pick up one more vote to pass the Senate.
Prospects are much dimmer for House passage, where Republicans also generally support the decision of the Republican-led FCC late last year to reverse the decision by the Democratic-led FCC in 2015 to classify broadband Internet access service as a Communications Act Title II common carrier service. The 2017 FCC action also eliminated most of the open Internet rules adopted by the FCC in 2015.
Even if both chambers pass the resolution, President Trump would be expected to veto it. However, in statements today, Senate Democratic leaders emphasized that, if nothing else, they will force Senate Republicans to be “on the record” regarding their position on net neutrality.
Some parties have suggested that CRA resolutions apply only to rulemaking actions and not to “adjudicatory” actions such as the 2017 declaratory ruling that broadband Internet access is a Title I information service.
However, the Congressional Research Service summary of the resolution says that it would nullify the restoring Internet freedom “rule” submitted to Congress, which “(1) restores the classification of broadband Internet access service as a lightly-regulated ‘information service’; (2) reinstates private mobile service classification of mobile broadband Internet access service; (3) requires Internet service providers to disclose information about their network management practices, performance characteristics, and commercial terms of service; and (4) eliminates the Internet Conduct Standard and the bright-line rules.”
In announcing the plans to move for a vote on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said, “The repeal of net neutrality is not only a blow to the average consumer, but it is a blow to public schools, rural Americans, communities of color and small businesses. A vote against this resolution will be a vote to protect large corporations and special interests, leaving the American public to pay the price.”
Sen. Markey said, “By passing my CRA resolution to put net neutrality back on the books, we can send a clear message to American families that we support them, not the special interest agenda of President Trump and his broadband baron allies.”
Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), the ranking minority member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said, “Will we stand with the American public, who understand why net neutrality is vital, or will we side with those who wish to control how we use the internet? The choice should be clear — the American public should always come first.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii), the ranking minority member on the Senate communications, technology, innovation, and the Internet subcommittee, said, “There is nowhere to hide, and there are no excuses. You are either for a free and open internet or you are not. This bill will get every member of the Senate on the record as either supporting or opposing net neutrality.”
Meanwhile, this afternoon several groups representing schools, libraries, and rural interests voiced their support for the CRA resolution during a conference call.
Larra Clark, deputy director of the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy, said, “We cannot afford to trust that ISPs [Internet service providers] will do the right thing” without rules compelling them to do so. She also said that net neutrality is “essential” for libraries to carry out their mission.
Keith Krueger, chief executive officer of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), said, ”We have to make sure the open Internet is available to all students, regardless of whether they live in urban areas or remote parts of Alaska.”
Marty Newell, coordinator-rural broadband policy at the Center for Rural Strategies, said, “We want to make room for small ISPs, for non-commercial providers to come in, and the open Internet is a way of ensuring there’s a level playing field.”
Asked whether there were any particular Republican senators they hoped to win over to support the CRA resolution, Mr. Kruger mentioned hopes of working through “our friends from Alaska.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R.) is reportedly still uncommitted either way regarding the CRA resolution.
In response to a question about the aims of the groups on the call, given the unlikelihood of getting the resolution through the House and past the president, Krista Cox, director–public policy initiatives for the Association of Research Libraries, said, “We don’t deny that there are some challenges [but] it’s important to keep pushing forward even when we don’t like our political chances.”
Tracy Weeks, director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, also participated in the conference call.
On the other side of the issue, TechFreedom today wrote to Senate supporters of the CRA resolution telling them that they are mistaken in believing that the resolution will restore the 2015 classification of broadband Internet access services as common carrier services, because, it said, a CRA resolution cannot undo an “adjudicatory order” such as the 2017 reclassification of broadband Internet access services as information services.
“Expanding the CRA’s scope even further, to erase that distinction, would effectively destroy the administrative state: almost any agency pronouncement since 1996 could now be subject to reversal by Congress under the CRA — or might be declared invalid in court, for not having been submitted to Congress for review,” TechFreedom said.—Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
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