US Senators force vote on Ctrl-Z'ing America's net neutrality death

Comes just days after final details published by FCC

The controversial repeal of net neutrality rules in America will go to a formal vote in Congress after sufficient lawmakers backed an effort to scrap it.

There are now more than 30 Senators that have cosponsored a resolution [PDF] under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn the effort by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). That means that the issue will be put to a vote on the floor of the Senate.

Although the chances of the resolution passing remain slim – it would require a majority vote in both the House and the Senate – it is a sign of just how unpopular the vote last month was. This comes as some individual US states – from California to New York – are mulling their own laws to protect network neutrality, a move Big Cable is fighting to shut down.

Democrats are almost universally opposed to the repeal of rules that are intended to protect consumers from broadband providers charging more for specific content. In the highly partisan world of Washington DC politics, that means that many Republicans are fervently in favor of the FCC's actions.

However, in recent weeks a number of Republican lawmakers have expressed their concern over the plan, following pressure from their constituents who worry that they will be forced to pay more for the content they want.

The news comes just days after the FCC formally published its repeal document, and drew fierce dissents from the two FCC Commissioners that voted against it.

There appears to be nothing important in the document that wasn't in drafts published earlier (although a full analysis will take time) – but it nonetheless sparked [PDF] Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to say that the decision puts the FCC "on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public. It deserves to be revisited, reexamined, and ultimately reversed."

Analysis?

In its formal announcement of the "restoring internet freedom order", the FCC argued that it had followed "a detailed legal and economic analysis, as well as extensive examination of comments from consumers and stakeholders."

Critics charge that the opposite is true: that it was drawn up with flawed and misleading economic analysis and that the decision-making process, particularly when it came to public comment, was abysmal.

Rosenworcel went so far as to call it "a broken and corrupted process" that "demonstrated extraordinary contempt for public input."

The statement from fellow Democrat on the FCC, commissioner Mignon Clyburn was no less damning.

"I dissent from this fiercely-spun, legally-lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order," she began her formal response [PDF], arguing that the FCC was "handing the keys to the internet – one of the most remarkable, empowering, enabling inventions of our lifetime – over to a handful of multi-billion dollar corporations."

For his part, FCC chairmain Ajit Pai continued to make the same arguments he has made for several months over why the rules repeal was necessary.

"We are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the Internet for most of its existence," he argued in his statement [PDF], before returning to what has become a persistent response to criticism of the plan: mockery and disdain.

"It's difficult to match that mundane reality to the apocalyptic rhetoric that we’ve heard from Title II supporters. And as the debate has gone on, their claims have gotten more and more outlandish," wrote the federal regulator's supremo.

Later, he wrote: "It is time for the Internet once again to be driven by engineers and entrepreneurs and consumers, rather than lawyers and accountants and bureaucrats" – a statement that is strikingly at odds with the public statements put out by engineers, entrepreneurs and ordinary folk. ®




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