The fight to keep the Internet open and equally available got a much needed lift Wednesday, and we hope the force of it will upturn last year’s decision that did away with net neutrality.
In a last-ditch effort, Senate Democrats have filed a petition to force a Congressional vote on the issue. They are trying to accomplish this through a Congressional Review Act resolution, which allows Congress to overturn regulatory decisions taken by federal agencies.
Last year the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, repealed net neutrality rules for Internet providers.
Consumers balked at the decision. Big cable companies praised it.
Net neutrality rules were enacted under the Obama administration to level the playing field and prohibit Internet providers from slowing down or blocking certain websites and applications.
Without net neutrality rules, many lawmakers predict there will be less competition than there already is, fewer choices for consumers and higher prices. Only those who could afford to pay for certain websites would have access to them.
In addition, small start-ups would have a much harder time getting established. Streaming services could be fast or slow, depending on price, parts of the Internet could be out of reach for subscribers who can’t afford it, and speech could be limited.
Pai had said the repeal would keep the government from micro-managing the Internet. But using the Internet has become as necessary as using electricity, and consumers must be protected from Internet price gouging or cuts in service.
That’s why Washington state was the first in the union to pass regulations requiring that net neutrality be observed within its borders. Other states are following suit, but a patchwork system is spotty and inadequate.
What’s needed are holistic, national net neutrality rules.
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has been fighting all along to keep net neutrality in place.
“We can’t let a few big cable companies be the ones to determine who wins and loses in the content wars," she said. "Over 4,000 tech startups were founded in 2015, and we added 142,000 jobs in tech in 2016. Is that going to slow down?”
She added that just three big cable companies control access to the Internet for 70 percent of Americans, and during the past decade, the price for these services has increased almost twice as fast as inflation.
Now that the resolution has been filed, it takes a simple majority vote in both chambers of Congress and the president’s signature to overturn the FCC rule.
The deadline for the vote in the Senate is June 12, and as of right now the resolution needs only one more vote to pass. All Democrats have signed on, as well as a Republican from Maine.
In the House, the deadline for the vote is Jan. 3, 2019, which means this could be an election issue.
U.S. Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., tweeted that the Internet “belongs to the people” and that, “If there was ever a time to make your voice heard, it’s NOW.”
If this is a fight you thought was lost, think again. It isn't over yet.