Net neutrality was repealed today by the FCC, a move that many say was ramrodded through without any public discussion or entering of complaints and ISP violations into the record. The decision, spearheaded by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, was expected. The ensuing fallout since the 3-2 vote could have easily been predicted as well.
So far, at least two Attorneys General have announced intentions to file suit over the repeal. New York AG Eric Schneiderman, who has already been a thorn in the FCC's side over more than 2 million bogus emails in favor of a repeal, announced that he is leading a multistate effort.
"The FCC's vote to rip apart net neutrality is a blow to New York consumers and to everyone who cares about a free and open Internet," Schneiderman said in a statement on his office's official site. "The FCC just gave Big Telecom an early Christmas present, by giving Internet service providers yet another way to put corporate profits over consumers. Today's rollback will give ISPs new ways to control what we see, what we do, and what we say online. That's a threat to the free exchange of ideas that's made the Internet a valuable asset in our democratic process."
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson also followed suit in a statement through his office:
"Today, I am announcing my intention to file a legal challenge to the FCC's decision to roll back net neutrality, along with attorneys general across the country. We are 5-0 against the Trump Administration because they often fail to follow the law when taking executive action. There is a strong legal argument that with this action, the federal government violated the Administrative Procedure Act — again. We will be filing a petition for review in the coming days. Allowing Internet service providers to discriminate based on content undermines a free and open Internet. Today's action will seriously harm consumers, innovation, and small businesses."
The two were part of a coalition of 19 AGs from around the United States who had asked the FCC to delay the vote because of the comments fraud.
Congress members also chimed in:
- Sen. Bob Markey (D-MA) plans to introduce a resolution to the Congressional Review Act, aimed at restoring net neutrality. “We will fight the FCC’s decisions in the courts, and we will fight it in the halls of Congress,” Markey said in a statement. “With this CRA, Congress can correct the Commission’s misguided and partisan decision and keep the internet in the hands of the people, not big corporations. Our Republicans colleagues have a choice - be on the right side of history and stand with the American people who support net neutrality, or hold hands with the big cable and broadband companies who only want to supercharge their profits at the expense of consumers and our economy.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) have come out in favor of the bill, along with 12 other senators.
- Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who supported the FCC's decision, promised action next week from Congress: “We need to permanently enact rules that prevent throttling and blocking- but that's Congress' job.”
- Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) was one of the members of Congress asking the FCC to delay the vote. Since he was ignored, he said he is planning to introduce net neutrality legislation as well. "This conversation belongs in #Congress. As I draft this bill email me your suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org," he tweeted.
- John Thune (R-SD) also favored the repeal, but thinks Congress needs to step in. “Now that the FCC has acted to reverse an ill-conceived regulatory scheme, Congress must take the lead in setting a clear path forward through bipartisan legislation to avoid the risk of regulatory back and forth," he said in a statement. "As I did before the Obama Administration first put its rules into place in 2015, I favor Congress enacting net neutrality protections and establishing sensible limits on the power of regulators. I call on Democrats and Republicans who want to preserve a free and open internet to work together on permanent consumer protections.”
Not only was Congress ready to act, so were some states, California State Sen. Scott Weiner said that he plans to introduce a bill to the California legislature in January to ensure net neutrality:
FCC just repealed net neutrality. When CA Legislature reconvenes in January, I‘ll introduce a bill to adopt net neutrality as a requirement in CA. If FCC won’t protect free/open internet, we will. #NetNeutrality is key to protecting our democracy, esp in this authoritarian age. pic.twitter.com/tQPqoaqJVW— Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) December 14, 2017
Santa Clara, California, county supervisor Joe Simitian said in a press conference that he and other state officials will sue the FCC in an effort to halt the repeal. “We believe the depth of your ideas should outweigh the depths of your pockets,” he said.
Unfortunately, the moves in California could be precluded, as today's FCC order also sought to limit the states making their own rules about net neutrality. It will likely be up to the courts to decide if that provision was lawful or not.
Politicians were not the only ones up in arms. Lawyers from consumer groups were on standby, anticipating the repeal. Advocacy group Free Press issued a statement saying that it was going to support Sen. Markey's Congressional Review Act resolution, and will take the FCC to court as needed.
“Net Neutrality is the nondiscrimination law of the internet," Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood said. "It’ll be just as necessary tomorrow as it is today. That’s why open-internet advocates and millions of internet users and activists will do everything to restore it in the near term and over the long haul. We’ll work tirelessly to fix the many legal, factual and moral failings that the FCC majority used to prop up its flawed and foundering decision."
Any one of these actions could hit well before the repeal actually becomes effective. According to law, any FCC action takes effect 60 days after the decision is published in the Federal Register. Luckily for opponents of the repeal, that publication doesn't happen right away. When net neutrality rules were first enacted by the FCC in 2015, publication did not happen until six weeks after the vote.
You can watch the full commission meeting, including the net neutrality debate, right here.