The battle to save network neutrality is heating up as Senate Democrats move closer to repealing the repeal of the Obama era network's neutrality and the lawsuits challenging the agency .
But supporters of net neutrality should not hold their breath. These efforts are long.
On Monday, Democrats announced that 49 of its members and a Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, will vote on a bill that uses the Congressional Review Act to restore regulation. And on Tuesday, the attorneys general of 22 states, browser maker Firefox Mozilla and several public interest groups
Democrats say they trust they can do the job.
"When we force a vote on this bill, Republicans in Congress – for the first time – will have the opportunity to correct the administration's error and show Americans whose side they are: large ISPs and large corporations or consumers, entrepreneurs and small business owners, "Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
The efforts represent a glimmer of hope for the fate of net neutrality, which was essentially dismantled when the FCC voted last month to repeal the rules adopted in 2015. Those rules prevented Internet service providers from blocking or slow down access to the Internet. or charging companies a fee to reach customers faster than their competitors. Consumer advocates, Internet companies such as Facebook and Google, and non-profit organizations, including the New York Public Library, say that an open internet is essential for freedom of expression and innovation.
On the other hand, cable operators and telephone companies, such as AT & T, Comcast and Verizon, say the rules went too far in treating broadband as a utility, subjecting it to decades-old regulations for the network telephone
The fight has become highly partisan, with Democrats in Washington and across the country united to protect net neutrality, and free-market Republicans who argue that Obama's FCC rules were too much.
To help you understand what all this means and if the Democrats in Congress or these lawsuits can salvage the old rules, CNET has gathered these frequently asked questions.
What is the neutrality of the network again?
Net neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic must be treated equally, regardless of whether you are reviewing Facebook, posting images on Instagram or streaming movies from Netflix or Amazon. It also means that companies like AT & T, which is trying to buy Time Warner or Comcast, which owns NBC Universal, can not favor their own content over a competitor's content.
What is this debate really about?
Most people agree on the basic principles of net neutrality. What they do not agree on is whether the FCC should have the authority to regulate these networks as a public utility, as if the old telephone network was regulated. As part of the 2015 rules, the agency changed the broadband classification to allow it to be treated as a utility.
Supporters of net neutrality and Democrats in the Senate believe that regulating the Internet in this way is necessary to have net neutrality rules that resist legal challenges. But broadband providers and many Republicans, like Ajit Pai, president of the FCC, see these rules as obsolete. They claim that the excess of this strict regulation has caused broadband companies to withdraw from the investment.
But without regulation, Democrats fear that there is no legal authority for the FCC to prevent broadband providers from abusing their power.
What is the Congressional Review Act and how do Democrats try to use it?
The CRA is a law enacted by Congress in 1996, which allows Congress to override a regulation if a majority of Senators and Representatives approve a "resolution." of disapproval "within 60 legislative days after the presentation of the order to Congress, a simple majority in both houses of Congress is all that is needed along with the president's signature.
But there is a big trap: a once a rule is repealed, the CRA also prohibits an agency from reissuing a similar rule in the future to replace it.
Prior to 2017, the CRA had only been successfully invoked once to revoke a rule of the Department of Commerce. Work that involved ergonomics, but since President Donald Trump took office last January, the Republican-controlled Congress passed 15 resolutions on rules adopted during the last month of President Barack Obama's administration, including an FCC rule that regulates how broadband companies handle private consumer data.
What are the chances that Democrats will succeed?
No remote possibility.
While it is true that the Democrats need only one more Republican to side with them in the Senate to get 51 votes, they still need a majority in the House of Representatives, where Republicans have a much larger margin: 238 Republicans to 193 Democrats. And even if they were able to gather votes in the Senate and the House of Representatives, they must convince President Trump to sign the CRA. And that is not likely given his dislike for regulation.
FCC Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr said it best: "You have to go through the Senate, go through the House, get the president to sign it," Bloomberg BNA told the CES show last week. Las Vegas. "I'm not going to comment on the odds of all that happening."
Why bother with the vote if it will not change anything?
The short answer: Politics. The Democrats want to make network neutrality a mid-term campaign theme. His plan is to force vulnerable Republican candidates to back his party and adopt a position that according to many polls is not popular among most Americans.
Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, said it is important for the public to see how Republicans vote on this issue.
"All members of Congress are going to say that they support an open internet," he said. "But now is the time to stand or shut up."
But the Republicans are not too worried. The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, John Thune of South Dakota, told Politico last week that the average American is unlikely to see net neutrality as a major issue for voting in the midterm elections. of 2018.
"I think they see it as a really hot political issue [that] that receives energy from its base," he said of the Democrats. "But most people, if their Netflix works, I'm not sure what the argument is."
What about the lawsuits filed against the FCC for rule changes?
It is difficult to predict the outcome of any litigation. But the reality is that the legal battle will also be a difficult road.
Courts generally differ from the experience of federal agencies, such as the FCC, according to Matthew Schettenhelm, a legal analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.
In this case, the court is likely to say that the FCC can classify broadband networks as a utility or not and then apply the law based on that classification. The Supreme Court of the USA UU It confirmed the authority of the FCC to make this decision in its decision of brand X of 2005. The courts have also repeatedly reaffirmed the right of independent government agencies to change their minds and reverse the course of regulation, which means that the arguments that supporters of net neutrality are doing will probably not be kept in court.
But Schettenhelm said that the DC Circuit, where this case is likely to be heard, is full of judges appointed by the Democrats.
"That can help supporters of net neutrality," he said. "But in the end, it's the law, not the policy, what matters most, and it's better aligned for the agency."
He added that in a case that is complicated, high profile and politically charged, there are no overturned. Still, he said that "the FCC starts with a key precedent on its side, which is an important advantage."
What about the Congress intervening and writing a law of net neutrality?
While this solution would offer the most definitive answer, it is probably an ugly and difficult process, since the issue has become very politicized.
Legislation has already been introduced. Days after the FCC voted to repeal the rules, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, introduced network neutrality legislation that prohibits Internet service providers from blocking and slowing down web access. But it does not address whether ISPs can create so-called "fast lanes" for companies willing to pay more for their services to be delivered faster.
This project is unlikely to win the support of Democrats.
Senator Thune, the Republican chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said the effort surrounding the vote on the Congressional Review Act only makes it harder to get Democrats to sit down at the table to discuss legislation. The legislators "need the CRA issue … to back us up before the Democrats are sufficiently motivated to get a legislative solution," he told Politico last week.
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