On Tuesday, Senate Democrats introduced their legislation under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules. They’ve got 50 votes behind them and need just one more vote to pass it.
Senate Democrats have been raising support for the CRA since last year, but the Federal Register publication starts a 60-legislative-day countdown clock for voting on it. The bill goes to committee for consideration first, but after 20 days, a group of 30 senators can force the Senate to put it on the calendar. Markey and his co-sponsors have more than enough supporters to force a vote this way, but to pass the resolution, they need to win over one more Republican in addition to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who has already expressed support for the move.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for more Republican support in a Wired editorial today. “Just weeks after giving the wealthy and multinational corporations a massive tax break, Republicans are adding insult to injury by once again picking CEOs over citizens,” he wrote.
One of those wealthy corporations is already salivating over their chance to start carving up the net. AT&T Senior VP Bob Quinn tries to say that the scheme they are going to be introducing immediately is simply “paid prioritization” that doesn’t mean they are dividing the internet into slow and fast lanes. Which is precisely what he explains they’ll be doing. But, he says, AT&T will be “enabling innovative new technologies like autonomous cars, remote surgery, enhanced first responder communications, and virtual reality services.” All of that stuff of course has to have faster access, once it’s paid for, to make sure internet traffic “directing autonomous cars, robotic surgeries, or public safety communications must not drop.” Which would be maybe justifiable, except that the open internet order of 2015 that established net neutrality already provided a carve-out for those crucial services.
The CRA faces tough odds in both the House and Senate, but not insurmountable odds. This issue, so salient to so many people across party lines, is ripe for the 2018 midterm elections. It’s just like Wall Street vs. Main Street and that Republican tax scam—a way for the Republicans to put their thumb on the scale for big corporations.