November 29, 2018 marks another Day of Action for net neutrality, with organizers encouraging internet users, small business owners, and even large corporations to sign an open letter to Congress and spread the word. This push is arguably even more critical than the last one because it has a deadline hanging over it. With the midterm elections changing the Congressional lineup, the deadline for any action on a Congressional Review initiated by the outgoing members will be their end of term. As such, a vote on the matter is scheduled for December 10 that could force an immediate floor vote on whether to use the initiated Congressional Review to reverse the repeal of Title II net neutrality laws that was signed by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, or throw out that Congressional Review. Should Congress decide on the latter, the repeal can no longer be challenged with a Congressional Review, meaning that new legislation will have to be drafted up in order to get net neutrality rules pushed through in some form.
Background: At this point, it's already an uphill struggle to put nationwide net neutrality rules back into effect, and it will become that much steeper if the previous Congressional Review is thrown out. While the midterm elections saw Congress flip to Democratic control, which would mean that chances would be good for a new net neutrality bill to be drafted, the House of Representatives still has a heavy Republican majority, which means that if the issue is played for party politics, the repeal is destined to stand. As things are now, the issue is laid out largely along party lines in Congress, with a much smaller number of Republicans than needed currently set to vote in favor of undoing the repeal. If this Congressional Review Act ends in the repeal standing, any new Federal legislation on the matter would have to attract at least a few Republican supporters in a Democratic Congress, and then make it through a Republican-controlled House.
Impact: This decision is crucial to the amount of control over users' internet experience that service providers can give themselves, and may well determine the shape of the internet in years to come. The free and open internet as it stands now could very easily be wiped out by censorship, extra fees, paywalls, and paid prioritization, though the FCC and its chairman swear that this is not the case and that ISPs have enough self-control to abstain from such behavior. The Day of Action website is framing this issue as a moral one, not a partisan one, and that perspective may be the only real hope of winning this battle in the net neutrality war. When Pai used a Republican majority in the newly staffed FCC to file the repeal, he turned the issue into a partisan one. In America right now, identity politics run deep and votes along party lines on tough decisions regarding things like human rights and market regulation are quite normal. Should the vote on December 10 not result in the repeal being vetoed, it could be nearly impossible to get net neutrality rules of any sort enacted, or even to allow states to enact their own.