Defenders of the Internet have promised one "hell of a fight"—and now that day is here.
Following last week's official publication of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's net neutrality repeal plan in the Federal Register, Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday countered by introducing joint resolutions—one in the House and an identical one in the Senate—that would nullify the agency-approved rule.
Filed under the authority of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), the resolutions are viewed by Internet defenders as the best avenue to block the effort by Pai, a former lobbyist for Verizon, which would destroy the foundational rules that have governed the flow of content and online traffic since the web was first created.
In the House, the resolution was introduced by Rep. Michael Doyle (D-PA). In the Senate, Sen. Markey (D-Mass.) is leading the charge.
The internet is for everybody, not just Verizon, Charter, AT&T, and Comcast.
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) February 27, 2018
"It's hard to imagine a better or more popular use for the CRA than restoring network neutrality," said Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, in reaction. "Net neutrality is overwhelmingly popular across the country—recent polling shows 83 percent of voters support net neutrality, including 75 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of independents."
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The move by congressional Democrats to introduce the CRA coincides Tuesday with an internet-wide day of action, a campaign organized by consumer and online advocacy groups called Operation #OneMoreVote, a reference to the fact—at least in the Senate—only one more vote is needed to meet the 51-vote threshold to approve the resolution. In the House, the growing list of those co-sponsoring the bill currently sits at about 150 members.
"Today millions of Net Neutrality supporters from across the country are putting lawmakers on notice: You have to choose whether you side with big phone and cable lobbyists or with the majority of people in the United States — both Republicans and Democrats — who want to restore Net Neutrality protections," said Sandra Fulton, government relations director for Free Press Action, a member of the coalition. "We thank the hundreds of members of Congress who have already made their choice clear and stood up for the open internet, along with the educators, entrepreneurs, advocates and activists who depend on this essential platform to make their voices heard."
Free Press explains that "throughout the day, internet users, small businesses, online communities, public-interest groups, technology companies and popular websites will harness their reach to flood lawmakers with calls, emails and tweets aimed at securing the final votes in the Senate and House needed to pass the CRA resolution."
According to a letter sent to its supporters on Tuesday, the group outlined various ways—both online and off—that ordinary people can join the effort to defend net neutrality:
1. Speak up: Call your senators and tell them to sign on to the CRA "resolution of disapproval," which is the best way to win back Net Neutrality and undo the FCC’s wrong-headed repeal.
2. Show up: Check out the Team Internet map to find a Net Neutrality protest or meeting near you.
3. Spread the word: Get your friends and family talking about Net Neutrality by changing your profile photos on social media to the Net Neutrality loading sign.
"Pai's actions are so wrongheaded and outrageous that it's no surprise millions of people are speaking out in defense of the open internet," said Fulton. "Lawmakers who haven't yet committed their support to the CRA resolution need to wake up, listen to their constituents and sign on in support of restoring Net Neutrality. And they need to act now while the CRA opens this window for fully rejecting the FCC’s dangerous action."
Full disclosure: Common Dreams, a registered 501c3 non-profit organization unabashedly committed to the free exchange of ideas and the democratic principles of the internet, is an institutional backer of the #OneMoreVote campaign, though this writer has not been involved with those organizing efforts.