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Democrats Have a Plan to Block the FCC's Vote Reversing Obama's Net Neutrality Rules

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 14: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai speaks to members of the media after a commission meeting December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. FCC has voted to repeal its net neutrality rules at the meeting. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Federal Communications Commission might have voted to dismantle the Obama administration's net neutrality effort, but Democrats, who demonstrated alongside angry members of the public when the vote took place, have already introduced a plan to undo the FCC's decision.

Spearheading the effort is Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), a longtime consumer advocate on technology issues. He announced he will introduce a measure under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).


“With this CRA, Congress can correct the Commission’s misguided and partisan decision and keep the internet in the hands of the people, not big corporations,” Markey said.

The CRA empowers Congress to review, by means of an expedited legislative process, new federal regulations issued by government agencies and, by the passage of a joint resolution, to overrule a regulation. The CRA also prohibits the reissuing of the rule in substantially the same form or the issuing of a new rule that is substantially the same "unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of the joint resolution disapproving the original rule" once a rule is repealed.

The resolution has already garnered support from Democrats. As of yesterday afternoon, it had 16 co-sponsors, including Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

No Republicans have expressed their public support for the measure, but Senator Markey acknowledges it will take time to build a coalition to reinstate net neutrality rules.

“Our Republicans colleagues have a choice,” Markey said in his statement Thursday. “Be on the right side of history and stand with the American people who support net neutrality, or hold hands with the big cable and broadband companies who only want to supercharge their profits at the expense of consumers and our economy.”

Yesterday, Markey warned there would be hefty political implications following the FCC's decision, a sign that Democrats intend to make net neutrality a headlining issue in next year's midterm elections.

"They are going to know, all of those in Congress all of those in the FCC that there is going to be a political price to pay for taking net neutrality away from the American people," he said. "This is a fundamental issue of equality so that the smallest entrepreneur, the smallest voice has equal access to the internet."

His colleague, Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA), agreed.

"We invented the internet," said Khanna to the throng of incensed protesters yesterday. "We should be paying the cheapest amount."

The FCC held closed-door meetings and ignored the concerns of 18 attorneys general that the public's comments had been compromised in a forum initially designated as space for them to voice our concerns. Now, others plan to sue the FCC in an attempt to reverse the repeal.

"Today, I am announcing my intention to file a legal challenge to the FCC's decision to roll back net neutrality, along with attorneys general across the country," Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. "We will be filing a petition for review in the coming days. Allowing Internet service providers to discriminate based on content undermines a free and open Internet. Today's action will seriously harm consumers, innovation, and small businesses."

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced in a statement that he is joining a multi-state effort:

The FCC's vote to rip apart net neutrality is a blow to New York consumers and to everyone who cares about a free and open Internet. The FCC just gave Big Telecom an early Christmas present, by giving Internet service providers yet another way to put corporate profits over consumers. Today's rollback will give ISPs new ways to control what we see, what we do, and what we say online. That's a threat to the free exchange of ideas that's made the Internet a valuable asset in our democratic process.

On the eve of the vote, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sparked criticism after he appeared in a video uploaded by the conservative website The Daily Caller in which he, dressed as Santa Claus, mocks his opponents, accusing them of overreacting to the possibility of repeal. Dancing alongside him was Martina Markota, a video producer for The Daily Caller who promoted conspiracy theories about a Democrat-operated child molestation ring run inside a Washington D.C. pizza shop in a blatant lie which eventually became known as "Pizzagate.”

You can still shop for all your Christmas presents online! Yeah! Got that bulk deal on fidget spinners!" Pai says in the video, which also shows him posing with puppies and taking selfies as he denigrates his critics.