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The Fate of Net Neutrality Hinges on the House

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WASHINGTON — On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission’s December 2017 decision to repeal Net Neutrality protections finally takes effect, almost six months after the agency voted to take this drastic step to undermine the open internet. The final effective date for this revocation of internet users’ rights was announced last month, via a notice published in the Federal Register.

On May 16, 2018, the Senate passed by a 52–47 margin a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn the FCC’s misguided decision. The CRA now has the support of more than 175 members of the House, as Net Neutrality advocates push toward the 218 representatives needed to sign a discharge petition and force a vote.

Free Press and its allies are challenging the FCC’s repeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, with arguments expected to occur by the end of this year. The CRA and federal court case against the FCC are just two parts of the comprehensive campaign to restore Net Neutrality protections.

Free Press Action Fund Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

“Ajit Pai and the ISPs that give him his marching orders will undoubtedly be pleased today as this decision to rob internet users of their rights takes effect. We are confident that their happiness will be short-lived, as Congress wakes up to the overwhelming public support for the Net Neutrality rules we’ve lost, and as the courts move closer to reviewing Pai’s unlawful decision.

“The rules that Pai and his enablers took away are tremendously popular, which is why the CRA to restore the rules passed the Senate last month and continues to gather momentum in the House. Only in Washington is the open internet a partisan issue. Polls show that 86 percent of voters — including 82 percent of Republicans — oppose today’s repeal. More than 50 percent of voters say a candidate’s support for the 2015 Net Neutrality rules is important to their voting decision in November’s congressional elections.

“Pai and his colleagues will celebrate a temporary victory on Monday. They will repeat the same propaganda used to justify their ill-advised vote in the first place. They’ll claim that the rules dampened broadband investment — even though Free Press and others have proven broadband deployment, speeds and performance continued to improve with the rules in place.

“Despite what Ajit Pai’s cynical lies suggest, this day does not mark the restoration of internet freedom — unless he means freeing up companies like AT&T and Comcast to block, manipulate and discriminate.  For the first time ever, we have neither nondiscrimination rules in place for network users, nor an ongoing FCC proceeding to restore rules struck down in earlier court cases. We’ve always had common-carriage laws or open-internet principles before, even though for the 10 years prior to 2015 those rules were grounded on the wrong legal authority.

“Today’s repeal marks a new era without any protections for internet access users. We may not see the broadband providers immediately change their practices on day one. They’re slightly smarter than that, and they know that they’re under scrutiny right now by members of Congress, the press and the public alike.

“Net Neutrality rules protect everyone’s right to a free and open internet. They safeguard free expression, entrepreneurship and education, especially for people of color, LGBTQIA communities, immigrants, dissidents, artists and upstart businesses most likely to face discrimination based on the political and commercial whims of broadband providers. The repeal of these rights today is a loss for our democracy and our country, but one we will fight to set right by winning them back.”

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