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Access 22 May 2018

US Senate Makes Moves to Reinstate Net Neutrality, But Sustainable Rules Are Still Necessary

Katie Watson
By Katie WatsonPolicy Advisor, North America

On May 16, the Senate passed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) repeal of the 2015 Open Internet Order. A CRA allows Congress to review regulations issued by government agencies and overrule them with a majority vote. This vote, led by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), is a step towards reinstating the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules.

The CRA will now move to the House, where it will require a majority vote in order to pass before heading to President Trump’s desk for his signature. If the CRA passes the House and gets the President’s signature, the 2015 Order will be reinstated.

Despite the CRA’s success in the Senate, it is unlikely that it will pass the House. In the Senate, every Democrat, two Independents, and three Republicans were needed to pass the CRA. In the House, Democrats hold just 193 of 435 seats and would need to be joined by 25 Republican or Independent Representatives to move the CRA to the President’s desk. Even then, the bill would face another major hurdle, as President Trump has previously expressed support for overturning the FCC’s Open Internet Order.

This is not to mention the court cases currently filed against the FCC over its repeal of the Open Internet Order. If the CRA fails to pass, these cases will continue for many months, with no clear timeline or outcome. If the CRA does pass, the cases will drop, but new ones are likely to be filed arguing against the reinstatement of the Order.

The motion still has a long way to go. The legal battle for net neutrality has already lasted years and could be drawn out for several more before sustainable, concrete rules are put in place. This will only increase confusion among end users and service providers. It is time to come up with a long-lasting compromise that prioritizes the needs of end-users and ensures a policy environment that encourages investment and innovation.

While we applaud Congress’ effort to ensure that the Internet remain open and accessible, we encourage all stakeholders to come together to propose a sustainable solution. Congressional representatives, government agencies, service providers, edge-providers, and public interest groups must work together to create and implement a solution and end the state of back-and-forth policy-making that has existed for too long.

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