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Preserving Net Neutrality, aka Protecting the Internet as We Know It

Our free and open internet is under attack by a Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Net neutrality ended on June 11, but there's still time to undo Trump's giveaway to big telecom companies - fight back by telling your Representative and Senators to vote yes on the Congressional Review Act resolution to protect net neutrality.  Also learn how you can take action at the state and local level to protect net neutrality.

Call Your Member of Congress Now

Net neutrality preserves the internet as we know it.

It’s the concept that all internet traffic should be treated equally, and that your Internet Service Provider (your ISP) shouldn’t be able to block or slow down certain sites you’re trying to access—or charge you more for certain services. The reason you can stream Netflix and Hulu at roughly the same speed and at no extra cost relative to the other is because ISPs aren’t currently allowed to favor one over the other.

Net neutrality has been codified under FCC rules since 2015. That’s when the FCC decided to regulate the internet as it does other public utilities, instead of regulating it as an “information service.” (This is called “Title II classification” and President Obama announced his support for it in 2014.) Deciding to classify the internet as a public utility gave the FCC a stronger hand to enforce the principles of net neutrality under existing telecommunications law. The rules also prohibited ISPs from blocking content or giving preferential treatment to some sites or content over others.

Trump’s FCC voted to repeal net neutrality.

Trump’s pick for Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has been a long-time opponent of net neutrality. On December 15, 2017 he led the FCC, in a 3-2 vote, to essentially wipe out net neutrality by repealing the FCC’s 2015 rules.

What could happen without net neutrality? We really don’t know, but we’re totally at the mercy of Verizon, Comcast, and other ISPs to find out. A “bundled” internet package, as seen here, is wholly within the realm of possibility:

However, Senator Ed Markey in the Senate and Representative Mike Doyle in the House, joined by other Democrats in each chamber, have introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to stop the FCC from destroying the internet as we know it. The CRA would repeal the latest FCC action and revert regulation of the internet back to the FCC’s 2015 rules.

What is the Congressional Review Act?

The Congressional Review Act, passed in 1996, is a law that allows Congress to undo any regulation that an agency (like the FCC) has recently finalized by passing a “resolution of disapproval.” Up until the Trump Administration, it had been used exactly one time in its twenty years on the books. But since Trump took over, the CRA has been used to repeal over a dozen Obama Administration regulations. (Indeed, Obama-era regulation repeal via CRA is among Trump’s scant “accomplishments.”)  

But the minority party in the Senate can use the CRA too. In fact, one provision actually allows the minority party in the Senate to get floor consideration of a resolution of disapproval. This is an unusual floor tactic for Democrats to have available to them—and they used it to win in the Senate.

The internet as we know it is at stake—and this will be an uphill battle.

The American people overwhelmingly support net neutrality. 86% of Americans, including 82% of Republicans, want the FCC to preserve it. And although Democrats have typically been the only party to embrace net neutrality, a small handful of Republicans have expressed concerns about the FCC’s vote to wipe it out.

On May 16, 2018, 3 Republican Senators (Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John Kennedy) joined all 49 Senate Democrats in voting to protect net neutrality. But it’s far more of an uphill battle in the House of Representatives. Democrats would have to persuade dozens of their Republican colleagues to sign onto a discharge petition, to force a vote on the House floor on the resolution of disapproval. And of course, even if it passed, Trump could always veto it -- requiring a ⅔ vote in each chamber of Congress to override it.

When does this happen?

The Senate passed the resolution to protect net neutrality on May 16. The House doesn't have any net neutrality-related action on the calendar right now; for an idea of how that fight could play out, you can read our explainer on how timing for the CRA works here. Net neutrality ended on June 11, but there's still time for us to go back to the way things were before.

The battle to save the internet is upon us—and now it's time to turn up the heat on the House. Call your Representative today and tell them to co-sponsor the resolution of disapproval to protect net neutrality.

Sample call script

Call Your Member of Congress Now

Caller: Hello! My name is ___ and I’m calling from [part of state]. I’m calling to ask [MoC] ___ to co-sponsor Congressman Doyle’s resolution of disapproval, which would uphold net neutrality and preserve the internet as we know it.

If the MoC is a cosponsor

Staffer: [MoC] is a co-sponsor of the resolution; they think protecting the free and open internet is critically important.

Caller: That’s great. I really appreciate [MoC]’s position on this. Please give him/her my thanks and have a nice day!

If the MoC is undecided or will not co-sponsor

Staffer: [MoC] will not co-sponsor the resolution. Net neutrality is a burdensome regulation that stifles innovation and discourages investment in our broadband infrastructure.

Caller: That’s not true. In fact, much of the innovation we’ve seen on the internet was able to happen because of net neutrality. The American people overwhelmingly support net neutrality, including 82% of Republicans. 3 Republican Senators voted in favor of protecting net neutrality instead of bowing to pressure from big telecom companies like Comcast; I hope [MoC] will follow their lead and reconsider.

Staffer: I’ll pass along your thoughts.

Caller: Yes, please do. I strongly support net neutrality and I expect [MoC] to do the same. Please take down my contact information so you can let me know if [MoC] changes his/her mind.