The FCC said its Restoring Internet Freedom Order, aka the rollback of President Obama-era net neutrality rules, will take effect June 11. Commissioners approved the order in December in a contentious, party-line vote.
Opponents of the measure, including several leading tech companies and Democratic FCC commissioners, have expressed concern that the new stance will enable gatekeepers like Comcast and Verizon to create “Internet fast lanes.” Certain online content could be given priority, disrupting free expression, they argue.
The Republican-controlled FCC, though, describes the move as “returning the regulation of Internet service providers to the bipartisan, light-touch approach that fostered rapid Internet growth, openness, and freedom for nearly 20 years.”
The setting of the date comes as Democrats in the Senate drafted a petition to force a vote on restoring the net neutrality rules. The full Senate is likely to take up the matter next week, where the Congressional Review Act legislation is expected to pass with the support of all 49 Democratic Senators and Sen. Susan Collins, the independent-minded Republican from Maine.
That would throw the politically charged issue to the Republican-controlled House, which would need act on similar resolution by the end of the legislative session. Then, the matter would reach President Donald Trump’s desk. Washington watchers say the outcome of the midterm elections will influence what happens next, and whether Republicans and Trump restore the net neutrality rules that are broadly popular outside the Beltway.
“I strongly support a free and open Internet. And that’s exactly what we’ve had for decades, starting in the Clinton Administration,” FCC chairman Ajit Pai said today in setting the date. “The Internet wasn’t broken in 2015, when the prior FCC buckled to political pressure and imposed heavy-handed Title II rules on the Internet economy. It doesn’t make sense to apply outdated rules from 1934 to the Internet, but that’s exactly what the prior Administration did.”
The FCC said it tied the effective date of the new framework to the approval of the new transparency rule by the Office of Management and Budget; the OMB approved the transparency rule May 2, and the FCC set June 11 as the effective date of the new framework to give providers time to comply with the transparency requirement.