Touching off a fresh battle between net neutrality supporters and opponents, the FCC has set April 23 as the end date for the Obama-era Open Internet Order. Now the big question is whether the funeral will take place as scheduled, if at all.
With the publication of its deregulatory Restoring Internet Freedom Order in the US Federal Register on Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) formally started the two-month shot clock for putting the new rules into effect. If all goes as planned, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's "light-touch regulatory scheme" will then take the place of the current rules, which bar ISPs from blocking or slowing down access to online content or prioritizing their own content and rely on the agency's Title II regulatory regime to enforce those rules.
Don’t buy flowers for net neutrality's grave quite yet, though. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress now has 60 legislative days to review the new regulations and decide whether to reject them. With support for keeping the current net neutrality rules running high among many Democratic lawmakers and a few Republican ones, that option remains a distinct possibility. But it’s still considered a long shot because President Trump, who appointed Pai to his post last year, could veto anything Congress passed, raising the bar much higher for an override of the new rules to succeed. (See Congress, Courts Ready to Rumble With FCC.)
While a successful CRA rejection of the new rules may not happen, Congress could step in another way by putting some form of net neutrality rules into law. Numerous bills recently introduced in both the House and Senate propose to do just that, although no consensus has formed around any of them yet. (See Net Neutrality Heads to Court & Congress and Can Congress Crack Net Neutrality? No Way!)
Further, the legal battles over the repeal of net neutrality have only just begun. As previously reported, at least 22 states are preparing to sue the FCC over the new rules. Plus, several states are moving ahead with plans to impose their own versions of net neutrality within their jurisdictions, setting up another legal fight that could wind all the way up to the US Supreme Court. (See Net Neutrality: States' Rights vs. the FCC.)
Finally, the war of words over net neutrality will soon heat up again in the public square. For instance, advocacy groups like Fight for the Future, Demand Progress and Free Press Action are organizing a day of action on Feb. 27 to demand a final Senate vote on the CRA resolution to overturn the rules. Such tech companies as Reddit, Tumblr, Etsy and Medium are backing this effort, which is dubbed Operation: #OneMoreVote.
So don't count out net neutrality just yet. It may not be going away any time soon.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading