With the Congressional Session ending today, before the new Senators and House Representatives are sworn in tomorrow and take their new positions, there was one last attempt at undoing the Net Neutrality reversal that FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai oversaw. In the Senate, the vote to reverse the repeal was done, but there weren’t enough votes in the House to overturn it completely. Pai later issued a statement stating that he is “please that a strong bipartisan majority of the US House of Representatives declined to reinstate heavy-handed Internet regulations.” In his statement, Pai also claimed that due to the reversal of Net Neutrality regulations, the US saw improvements in speeds for broadband, and also new fiber deployments in 2018. This is true, however it is only partially true. These speeds improved because of competition, not because of the Net Neutrality rollback. Pai also noted that “the Internet has remained free and open… the FCC’s light-touch approach is working.”
The Net Neutrality Fight is not over, by a long shot
While Pai’s reversal of the Net Neutrality rules set in place under the Obama Administration may be standing for now, the fight is no where near over. In fact, there are a number of advocacy groups that are getting ready to fight this even further. Fight For the Future’s deputy director, Evan Greer said that “as usual Ajit Pai is full of it.” Adding that “his claim that broadband speeds are up is the tech policy equivalent of ‘it’s snowing outside, therefore climate change is a hoax.'” Fight For the Future was just one of many advocacy groups that were pressuring Congress to reverse Pai’s decision. Greer reaffirmed that the fight is far from over, stating that “dozens of anti-net neutrality members of Congress have already lost their jobs, and supporters of the open Internet will soon chair the committees that provide oversight for the FCC.”
That last sentence in Greer’s statement is pretty important, the fact that supports of the open Internet will soon chair committees that oversee the FCC. Meaning that Net Neutrality won’t be solely in the hands of Commissioner Pai, after the new Congress takes its seats tomorrow in Washington, DC. This is important too, now that the Congressional session is over, it can no longer simply repeal and reinstate the older rules. Which means that it is going to take a bit more time to get Net Neutrality back in place.
Pai’s Victory Lap May Be Shortlived
The victory lap that Pai is taking today in Washington is one that might be shortlived. With the Democrats taking over the House, it won’t be long before new Net Neutrality laws pass through the House – though it will still need to pass through the Senate, which the Republicans still control. Net Neutrality is something that is needed now, especially with ISP’s able to throttle traffic for specific sights and applications on its network. The whole point of Net Neutrality was not to give the government a heavy hand, but to allow all Internet traffic to be treated equally. That is no longer happening. There have been a couple of cases in 2018 alone, where ISP’s were caught throttling traffic for specific sites. This included Sprint throttling traffic for Skype – which is a popular video calling service and likely uses a good amount of bandwidth on its network. Without these Net Neutrality rules that were set by the Obama Administration back in 2014, ISP’s are going to be able to not only throttle traffic, but also charge more for traffic to specific sites like Netflix and YouTube because they use more bandwidth than say Twitter and Facebook.
Another way the Trump Administration is undoing everything Obama did
Since Trump took offer in 2017, he has sought to undo everything that Obama did during his eight years in The White House. Now this isn’t new, or unique to Presidents Trump and Obama. Typically, when the other party takes over the executive branch (aka the presidency), they undo a lot of things that were done by their predecessor. However, in the case of Trump, he is undoing things just because Obama did it. Another major achievement under Obama’s presidency was the Affordable Care Act, something that President Trump and the Republicans have tried repeatedly (and failed repeatedly) to repeal, since taking office nearly two years ago.
With the Democrats taking over the House this week, with the new Congress taking over, there are a few things that can happen. The House can draw up some Net Neutrality regulations and pass it through to the Senate – which may or may not pass it, since it is still Republican-held. But that of course will not be a major concern to the new Congress this week. There are a number of other things that the new Congress is going to be focused on at first, which includes the Russia investigation and the Special Counsel. Net Neutrality will likely end up heading to the courts. Currently, the FCC is already defending its repeal in a lawsuit that was filed by more than three dozen entities (which include state attorneys general, consumer advocacy groups and tech companies). In this lawsuit in particular, judges will have to decide whether the repeal can remain in place and whether the FCC can keep states from creating and enforcing their own Net Neutrality laws – California is one such state that has already created its own, but it agreed to suspend enforcing it until the court case is over.
There are many different paths to go down, for the future of Net Neutrality. But perhaps the most important thing here is the fact that no one is giving up on it. Remember that if Net Neutrality is important to you (and it should be), you can write or call your US Senator or Representative and tell them that it’s important that we have tougher Net Neutrality rules in place. While it may seem arbitrary to do so, it does make a difference, if enough people call or write in.