The resolution that the Senate approved on Wednesday and that would restore the neutrality rules of the Federal Communications Commission's network, can ultimately go nowhere.
But this problem will not go away.
And one day, probably in the not too distant future, the protections of net neutrality will once again be the law of the earth, this time forever.
Support for open internet rules has only grown over time, both among the public and on the Beltway. And the more people know the rules and the purpose they serve, the more they will like and support them, no matter which side of the political aisle they are on.
"People from across the political spectrum, from the far left to the far right, can all agree: they do not want their cable company to control where they get their news and information, how they listen to music or where they can broadcast videos "said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, a group of Internet activists who pushed hard for the Senate resolution.
Because of that, the FCC's vote in December to get rid of its rules can eventually be seen as the last breath of the unregulated guard.
Network neutrality is relatively new, but it is rooted in long-standing laws
. To understand why the restoration of net neutrality rules is beginning to seem inevitable, you must understand a little about what They are and their past history.
In essence, the neutrality of the network is the principle that all data, sites and services on the Internet should be treated in the same way. Users must be able to access any site or service they wish, without being blocked or interposed by an Internet provider, or promoting their own sites and services to the detriment of others. That makes sense to many people, because the conceptual framework that underlies network neutrality is rooted in long-standing traditions, rules and laws about how we treat companies that offer their services to the general public, particularly corporate telecommunications
Even so, the term "network neutrality" is relatively new, only coined in 2003. And for a large part of time since then, it was something that, arguably, only computer experts or enthusiasts understood or were passionate about.
Even so, as early as 2004, Michael Powell, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission at that time, gave his seal of approval to an early iteration of net neutrality. Since then, the FCC – under first a Republican president and then a Democrat – made three attempts to establish rules that would guarantee protections for net neutrality.
The agency's first two efforts were overturned by a federal appeals court on the grounds that the FCC did not base them on their legitimate powers or authorities. So in 2015, the agency took another stab, basing its latest version of its net neutrality rules on some of the most powerful powers it has, a measure that was later confirmed by the appeals court itself.
The FCC could have moved away from net neutrality on numerous occasions, especially after any of its judicial setbacks. The fact that he did not say much about how the issue went from being a dark political debate to a main issue.
Public support for net neutrality has been built
In fact, the trend in favor of net neutrality can be seen in public participation in the issue. In 2014, when the agency was considering a new version of the rules in response to the second court ruling against it, it received millions of comments from the public, so the issue was by far the most commented on the matter that the agency had considered at that moment. hour. The vast majority of those comments were in favor of the agency establishing new rules of net neutrality.
Last year, when the agency was considering repealing those rules, it received even more comments. All sorts of questions have been raised about the legitimacy of many of those comments, but one of the more detailed studies on it indicated that the agency received millions of genuine and genuine submissions, and the vast majority was in favor of keeping the rules in place. place.
You can also see the evolution of the debate in public polls. Four years ago, when the FCC was reflecting on the latest version of its net neutrality rules, only 46% of the public had heard of the term "net neutrality." By the time he voted for his derogation in December, two thirds had.
Regardless of whether people knew the term, for a long time there has been broad support across the political spectrum for Internet providers to treat all data equally and the widespread opposition to them by creating the so-called fast lanes for certain sites or services. And polls show that support is only increasing. In December, a survey by the University of Maryland found that 83% of Americans, including 75% of Republicans, were in favor of keeping the rules of neutrality of the FCC network in effect. In a follow-up survey last month, the University of Maryland discovered that 86% of Americans now prefer to keep the rules in place. Although this change was within the margin of error of both surveys, the increase in republican opposition to the repeal of the net neutrality rules increased significantly, reaching 82%.
The remarkable thing about that survey is that it gave the respondents detailed arguments on both sides of the problem before asking them to give a final opinion on the rules. As expected, most Republicans found that the arguments for repealing them were at least somewhat convincing. But they, like other groups, found the arguments to keep the rules much more convincing.
In other words, the more people – including the anti-regulatory Republicans – knew the issue, the more they supported the neutrality of the network.
That has to worry those who want to end the rules of net neutrality once and for all. Because it is likely that knowledge about what the principle is and what the rules intend to do grow over time.
The FCC rules were strengthened over time, in line with public support
But the tide in favor of network neutrality can also be seen in the evolution of the FCC rules. They went from being simple guidelines to being actual regulations to being rules based on the powers of the agency under Title II of the Communications Law, which gives it all kinds of authority to regulate telecommunications companies.
That move to adopt Title II was something that politicians on both sides of the aisle resisted fiercely. In fact, under George Bush, the FCC was determined to remove Internet providers from Title II regulations.
When the first two versions of the net neutrality rules were overturned by the courts, none of the presidents of the agency at that time-Julius Genachowski and then Tom Wheeler, both Democrats-wanted to resort to Title II of the agency . authority. In fact, in 2014, Wheeler initially seemed willing to allow broadband providers to create so-called fast lanes, a measure that would undermine the neutrality of the network, only to not have to classify Internet access as a Title II service. .
That position was in line with the Beltway consensus. Republicans in the agency and in Congress, who generally oppose regulations, opposed the reclassification of Internet access as a Title II service. But so were many Democrats in Congress, who warned Wheeler not to make that change.
The fact that he finally reversed course and relied on Title II to support the new rules demonstrates the power of this problem and the people behind it. The avalanche of comments in favor of the movement gave him the strength to make the movement.
The perspectives of the resolution of the Senate are doubtful, but the neutrality of the network are not
Wednesday's movement by the Senate also shows the growing wave in favor of net neutrality. Here it had the spectacle of a Senate dominated by republicans, full of senators whose campaign chests were filled with cash from the telecommunications giants, disregarding those telecommunications interests and reprimanding the FCC president chosen by the Republican president little more than one year in the term presidency.
The resolution won the support of each and every Democrat, including those who four years ago warned Wheeler not to trust Title II. He also won the support of three Republicans at a time of fierce partisanship and when members who oppose Trump know that the opposition can become a professional candidate. That does not happen unless people know that opposing the neutrality of the network can be an even greater threat to their political careers. The Senate resolution still faces long political disadvantages. To stop the derogation of net neutrality, the House of Representatives must pass and be signed by the president. To date, the resolution has obtained much less of the majority support it will need in the House, and the prospect of Trump signing and repudiating his own FCC president seems obscure.
But that does not mean it's impossible. There is a good chance that Democrats who have not yet declared their support for the measure will end up voting for it, seeing it as a political winner. Meanwhile, there are a lot of Republicans retiring this year, which could encourage at least some of them to support him as well.
And who knows what Trump will do in the end? He often seems to be on the side of the one who spoke to him in the end. Despite the anti-regulatory tendency of its administrations, it has expressed at least some concern in the past about the power of certain telecommunications companies. At least in theory, that could lead him to back the resolution if it ever came to his desk.
Independently, however, the impulse is decidedly in favor of net neutrality. Even if this resolution dies, those protections come back, one way or another.