WASHINGTON, May 10, 2018 -- White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday declined to say whether President Trump would sign a bill that would reverse the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of network neutrality rules promulgated during the Obama administration.
"We'll keep you posted when we have a specific policy announcement on that front," Sanders said when asked if President Trump would sign a 16th Congressional Review Act resolution to reverse a December vote by the FCC which rolled back Obama-era regulations put in place under then-chairman Tom Wheeler (D).
The regulations, formally known as net neutrality or open internet rules, prohibit broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon from interfering with users’ internet traffic or prioritizing some traffic over others. Under Wheeler, the FCC did this by classifying broadband internet access services as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. Their repeal was a priority for the current Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who has long opposed strong net neutrality protections.
Democrats are using every tool in the box to protect network neutrality
Under the Congressional Review Act, passed by the Republican-led Congress in 1996 and signed by then-President Bill Clinton, Congress can use a resolution of disapproval to repeal rules put in place by regulatory agencies like the FCC.
The bill in question, S.J. Res. 52, is a joint resolution sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and 48 other Senate Democrats along with one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
Collins' support gave the 49 Senate Democrats enough signatures to file a discharge petition, which when signed by 50 senators, invokes a parliamentary procedure to force a bill to be brought to the floor for a vote.
The rarely-used maneuver is necessary because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has not indicated any interest in bringing the resolution, but even if Democrats' effort is successful in finding a 51st vote in the GOP-controlled Senate, caucus, a House vote on the bill is unlikely at this point.
The fight to save net neutrality also extends to the courts, where a lawsuit is pending to prevent the FCC from implementing the new rules. Both the legislative and legal efforts have taken on a new urgency for net neutrality advocates because the FCC has put in place final plans to implement the repeal.
Chairman Pai hails return to 'bipartisan, light-touch approach'
In a statement Thursday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a longtime opponent of network neutrality protections, hailed the impending change as a return to "the bipartisan, light-touch approach that served the online world well for nearly 20 years" while bashing the old rules as "heavy-handed" and "outdated."
“On June 11, we will have a framework in place that encourages innovation and investment in our nation’s networks so that all Americans, no matter where they live, can have access to better, cheaper, and faster Internet access and the jobs, opportunities, and platform for free expression that it provides," Pai said.
"And we will embrace a modern, forward-looking approach that will help the United States lead the world in 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity. For months, many politicians and special interests have tried to mislead the American people about the Restoring Internet Freedom Order. Now everyone will be able to see the truth for themselves.”
(Image from Fight for the Future used with permission.)