Net neutrality supporters on Wednesday unveiled a campaign aimed at unseating US senators who refuse to overturn the FCC order repealing net neutrality.
The campaign, launched by the open-internet advocacy organization Fight for the Future, will allow net neutrality supporters to receive updates via text notifying them if their elected representatives don’t support overturning the order. Alerts will go out on the eve of the next election as well, reminding voters where lawmakers fell on the issue. To sign up for the alerts, you can enter your phone number on the campaign website or text “VOTE” to 384-387.
“The public has spoken and voters are demanding that their lawmakers do their jobs and defend net neutrality,” Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement. “Any lawmaker that ignores the overwhelming consensus among tech experts and this level of public outcry doesn’t deserve to be in office.”
Added Greer: “News outlets keep asking whether net neutrality will be an election issue in 2018. We are going to make it one.”
In a party-line vote last month, the Republican-controlled Federal Communication Commission repealed rules that had allowed the agency to establish regulations prohibiting ISPs from blocking or throttling websites or creating so-called “fast lanes” for internet companies willing to pay more to have their services delivered at a faster speed. Both Democrats on the commission vehemently opposed the decision.
Twenty-nine US senators have reportedly signed up to reverse the FCC order using the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The act enables lawmakers to overturn agency rules with only a simple majority by issuing a “Resolution of Disapproval.” The procedure, which may be vetoed by the president and then require a supermajority to pass, would, regardless of the outcome, force both House and Senate lawmakers to publicly declare either their support for or against net neutrality.
Among the public, net neutrality enjoys broad support by both Republicans and Democratic voters, according to a recent academic study. That doesn’t bode well for Republicans in 2018. In addition to overturning the FCC order, Democrats are looking to foment voter rage over the issue and harness it against Republican candidates this fall.
Net neutrality advocacy groups are encouraged by the few Republicans who’ve crossed over to their side. Fight for the Future’s campaign website—votefornetneutrality.com—touts the skepticism of Rep. Mike Coffman, Republican of Colorado, who openly opposed the FCC order and further warned FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that its passing may have “unanticipated negative consequences.”
The group says a single Republican may be all that’s needed to pass the CRA resolution in the Senate, as Sen. Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, reportedly signaled to reporters late last month that she was open to considering the resolution.
In the House, Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a vocal supporter of Pai and net neutrality opponent, is pushing a bill that she claims would enshrine “net neutrality” protections into law; however, the bill—which she’s named the Open Internet Preservation Act—does not prohibit ISPs from charging online services, such as Netflix, for prioritized access. (In other words, by omission, Blackburn’s bill endorses the creation of internet “fast lanes.”)
Of seven top internet providers—Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Sprint and T-Mobile—none have ruled out the possibility of creating “fast lanes” for certain online traffic, according to the Associated Press. A few of the companies even declined to acknowledge the question.