WASHINGTON, DC – After the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially published its order overturning landmark Obama-era net neutrality rules, triggering a 60-legislative-day deadline for Congress to vote on whether to overturn the decision, U.S. Senator Jack Reed is once again pushing to preserve net neutrality and ensure equal Internet access for all.
Last December, the Republican-led FCC voted 3-2 to overturn rules barring Internet service providers from blocking or slowing access to or charging more for certain content. The FCC’s vote fell along party lines, with Trump-appointed Chairman Ajit Pai and Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O’Rielly voting in favor of the order, and Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel voting against.
After the FCC’s December vote, Senator Reed joined with Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) and other Democratic colleagues in unveiling a plan to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to effectively invalidate the FCC’s action and restore the 2015 net neutrality rules. The CRA requires that all federal agency rules be reported to Congress and allows lawmakers 60 legislative working days to nix administrative federal regulations through an act of Congress with a simple majority in both chambers. Legislators of either party can petition to reverse agency rulings, after which Congress must consider a “resolution of disapproval” with a simple majority in the Senate. The resolution of disapproval, if passed by the House and Senate and signed into law, would rescind FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s decision and fully restore the Open Internet Order. Currently, the CRA resolution has the support of all 49 Democratic senators, as well as Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), and is one Republican vote shy of the 51 needed to pass in the Senate.
“This is a serious issue that affects everyone from students to seniors to small businesses,” said Senator Reed. “Net neutrality is incredibly important to all Rhode Islanders. It levels the playing field by allowing all content to have equal access to the Internet and making sure that Internet service providers treat everyone fairly and equally. Ending net neutrality undermines the principles of a free and open Internet. It would be a devastating mistake that would have harmful consequences for students, consumers, and small businesses. A repeal of net neutrality protections would be an unprecedented giveaway to large corporations at the expense of their customers who use and rely on affordable access to the Internet every day. I urge the Administration to keep existing net neutrality rules in place, and I pledge to continue working on a bipartisan basis with my colleagues to preserve equal Internet access for all.”
In addition to actions already initiated by Reed, Markey, and other Democrats in Congress, numerous outside groups have pledged to fight against the FCC’s actions. Several net neutrality supporters and attorneys general, in more than 20 states, including Rhode Island, have already filed petitions with the courts. Governors in some states have signed executive orders requiring service providers that do business with the state to adhere to the principles of net neutrality and preventing them from creating Internet “fast lanes.”
“Today it is official: the FCC majority has taken the next step in handing the keys to the internet over to billion-dollar broadband providers by publishing the Destroying Internet Freedom Order in the Federal Register,” said FCC Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. “I am both disappointed and hopeful. Disappointed that this is one more anti-consumer notch on this FCC’s belt, but hopeful that the arc of history is bent in favor of net neutrality protections. Whether it is litigation, state action, or some other mechanism that brings it about, I am sure that robust net neutrality protections will prevail with the American public!”
Reed has long fought to protect net neutrality protections and has taken multiple actions to prevent the repeal of net neutrality rules. Prior to the FCC’s vote in December, Reed joined his colleagues in sending a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai urging the agency to abandon plans to repeal net neutrality. In December, Reed hosted an event at the Providence Public Library alongside leading Rhode Island teachers and librarians to discuss how repealing net neutrality could negatively impact Rhode Islanders, consumers, businesses, and democracy and put people who can’t pay for preferential treatment online at a disadvantage. He also led a letter that explained the harmful impact repealing net neutrality could have on libraries and those who rely on Internet access they provide. Reed has also spoken at length to colleagues on the Senate floor, urging them to join the efforts to push back against net neutrality repeal.
The effective deadline for the repeal is April 23.