FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s dream to kill net neutrality could come to an end because the U.S. Senate is forcing a vote to restore the protections. Lawmakers are using the Congressional Review Act to make the vote happen, and right now it looks like the Senate is just one vote short of bringing net neutrality back to life.
Ajit Pai was a vocal critic of net neutrality even before he became the FCC Chairman. After he took over the role from Tom Wheeler, he went on a public crusade to undo the protections keeping net neutrality in place.
Pai succeeded and overturning the FCC’s Open Internet Order in December 2017, effectively ending net neutrality protection in the United States. His reasoning was that Internet Service Providers can make a better experience for users without regulations and that government involvement stifles innovation.
Net Neutrality 101
Net neutrality is the idea that all information should be able to pass freely through internet servers. Without net neutrality, ISPs can throttle content from competitors, charge extra to allow content to pass through to customers, and block content as they please.
ISPs say they don’t need net neutrality regulation and that customers don’t need to worry about throttled or blocked content. History, however, says they do. Verizon and Comcast actively throttled Netflix streams until the streaming movie service payed extra money. Other ISPs have blocked content, too.
The Senate is using the CRA to force a vote reinstating net neutrality, and that vote could come as early as next week. The CRA gives Congress 60 days on the legislative calendar after a regulation is introduced to revert it to its prior state. In this case, it would bring back net neutrality protections.
Voting to Save Net Neutrality
The Senate and House of Representatives need a simple majority vote to to pass the roll back on to the White House for the President’s signature. Right now the Senate has 50 supporting votes and is optimistic that needed 51st vote will come soon. The House seems supportive, too, so there’s a reasonable chance net neutrality could get a second chance at life.
Assuming the CRA vote goes in favor of retaining net neutrality, Ajit Pai and the FCC will have to comply and continue to enforce the Open Internet Order.