by Bryce Cashman, Legal Intern
February 13, 2015 marked another milestone for free expression and compeition online, as the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) new rules on net neutrality were officially published in the Federal Register, after being adopted in a 3/2 vote by the FCC on February 26. Despite widespread public support for these policies including countless musicians and a strong majority of the 4 million comments submitted, net neutrality opponents in congress haven’t given up without a fight, with ISPs introducing lawsuits in the courts and some in congress introucing measures to slow or block the new rules, resulting in the five grueling congressional hearings at which FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler delivered a forceful defense of his proposed rules.
The most recent attempt to stop net neutrality also landed on April 13, as Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) introduced a new resolution in the house, calling for an expedited review of the FCC’s recently proposed net neutrality rules. In effect, the resolution seeks to enact a fast-tract repeal the FCC’s proposed rule—known now as the Open Internet Order—which requires internet service providers (ISPs) to afford consumers open and accessible networks, free from content-based discrimination, and reclassifies broadband internet service under a “common carrier” framework. These rules, based in Title II of the Communications Act, are important for all musicians and independent labels alike who rely on the internet as a level playing field to reach audiences and promote their work.
Collins’ resolution of disapproval, which is supported by fourteen other Republicans, operates in accordance with the Congressional Review Act, which permits Congress to expedite review of new regulations proposed by government agencies like the FCC. But for Collins’ resolution to successfully kill the FCC’s Open Internet Order, the resolution must pass both houses of Congress and receive approval from the President. It seems unlikely to pass in the house; no equivalent resolution has been introduced in the Senate, and even if it did make it through Congress, President Obama is a firm supporter of the FCC’s Title II approach and would be certain to veto. So what’s the point?
Last month, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a similar-themed bill, the hilariously mistitled Internet Freedom Act, in an attempt to stifle the FCC’s progress with the Open Internet Order. As we’ve reported, that bill doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere either.
Meanwhile, lawsuits against the new rules continue to stack up: a total of seven different suits have now been filed against the agency by different ISPs and trade groups. However, Chairman Wheeler is confident that the FCC will prevail in court, and with the strong authority granted by Title II backing him up, we’d argue that he’s got a sound strategy in place. For now, if you ever wonder why your ISP bill is so high, you might remember all the money wasted on pointless lawsuits against protections that consumers themselves overwhelmingly asked for.