The FCC Just Voted To Take Away Net Neutrality. The Good News? Congress Can Still Stop It.

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Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed net neutrality — a terrible step for what has traditionally been a free and open internet, and for American democracy. Repeal of net neutrality rules will allow dominant companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to discriminate against rivals by prioritizing their own content.

Net neutrality became the law in 2015, when the FCC voted to apply “Title II” restrictions — which cover utilities — to internet services companies, as well. The Title II classification is important because it gives the FCC the authority to regulate internet service providers (ISPs) as they do other utilities such as power companies and phone services.

By repealing net neutrality, the Trump-controlled FCC has given ISPs the power to decide which websites you can to go to and which ones you cannot. The FCC rule gives powerful internet providers the regulatory green light to speed up or slow down traffic to certain sites, charge consumers more to use services that compete with options that they offer, and even block online access altogether.

Founder of the Disability Visibility Project and DREDF board member, Alice Wong wrote for the Center for Media Justice last month:

“A majority of my work takes place online. It’s also where I go to find support, solidarity, and friendship across time and space. Some disabled people like me encounter barriers while being out or are isolated socially and geographically. There are disabled people who cannot leave their beds who are badass activists with incredible social media presence because of the Internet. It is a literal lifeline for many including myself.”

Take away net neutrality and Alice won’t have the same tools available to empower individuals, encourage engagement or lay the same foundaton to empower and foster communities.

Neither will you.

Here is a list of ways that losing net neutrality will limit access and engagement for people like you:

  1. The internet could get slower overall and less secure.
  2. If internet providers create fast and slow lanes — and charge internet-based companies or services more — those costs will likely be passed on to customers. For people on fixed incomes this is of particular concern. Blogs, video content (such as YouTube), and even telehealth services provided by your doctor or hospital could all be restricted or have costs dramatically increased.
  3. The US could soon become more like Portugal — which has weaker internet laws and where internet service providers are offering tiers of service. Instead of being guaranteed equal access across platforms and applications, consumers may have to pay extra to use the features they want. Services that are currently all-inclusive such as email, web access, social media, video services, and music streaming could become “add-ons.” Think of it as being forced to pay additional fees to watch reruns of “Friends” on a channel that used to be on basic cable.
  4. Censorship. Control by corporate broadband providers could easily control what we see and hear (and what we don’t) in activist campaigns. Newsweek cautioned, “In January, a grandmother in Hawaii basically initiated the Women’s March with a single Facebook post—but under the proposed rule change, an internet service provider could have narrowed her ability to get traffic, effectively censoring her message to the broad online community seeking it.” Remember how the disability community and groups like ADAPT used the internet to spearhead efforts that saved Medicaid last summer? Ending net neutrality will make that much, much harder.

Thankfully, the fight isn’t over just yet.

Recent surveys show incredibly high support for securing current internet freedoms: More than 80% of Americans support net neutrality and don’t want it repealed — and yes, that is a bipartisan sentiment.

On the same day as the FCC vote, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey announced his intention to stop the FCC’s rollback with a legislative tool called the Congressional Review Act. A CRA not only kills a rule, but prevents the agency in question from creating the same rule again — so it would be a blunt weapon that stops the FCC from investigating the question again in the same way.

Broad bipartisan support for existing net neutrality protections from the right, the left, and darn near everyone in between makes net neutrality one of the rare issues both political parties agree on. Using the CRA, Congress could issue a resolution of disapproval and overrule the FCC’s decision. It isn’t going to be easy — the CRA only provides Congress a 60 day window in which to act, but we’ve beaten the odds before. Together, we can do it again.

What You Can Do:

Go to Battle for the Net and send the following message to Congress:

I support Title Two net neutrality and I urge you to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to pass a "resolution of disapproval" reversing the FCC’s December 14 vote to repeal the Open Internet Order.