Though the FCC voted to kill net neutrality last December, the formal repeal didn’t take effect until today. Moving forward, the FCC no longer has the full authority to police bad behavior by broadband monopolies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, thanks to the Trump FCC’s decision to gut classification of ISPs as common carriers. And while ISPs claim that the FTC is well suited to jump in and police any potential abuses, legal experts have argued that’s largely nonsense, since the FTC’s authority over ISPs is severely constrained.
But while ISPs think they’ve scored a major victory here by convincing Ajit Pai and the Trump FCC to ignore the public, ignore the experts, and cuddle up to telecom duopolies, this policy middle finger aimed squarely at consumers is likely to result in a policy and political backlash they’re going to be navigating for years.
To start, activists today will rally to gather support for an effort to use the Congressional Review act to reverse the FCC’s repeal with a majority vote in the House and Senate. The Senate already voted in favor of the effort, which now faces tougher odds in terms of getting a House vote and avoiding a veto by President Trump.
But that’s not the only effort underway to fight back against the FCC’s obvious regulatory capture.
Should the CRA reversal fail, the next best option rests with the courts and the numerous lawsuits that have been filed against the FCC for ignoring the public interest. Those suits will lean heavily on the administrative procedures Act, which requires the FCC to prove that market conditions were dramatic enough to warrant such a major reversal of an extremely popular policy. The court battle will also highlight how the FCC turned a blind eye to identity theft and fraud during the public comment period (which was the public’s only real chance to express disdain for the FCC’s policy).
Should that legal battle fail, there’s still the option of restoring the rules once the Trump era ends, whether that comes in the form of new FCC rules or a new federal law. That’s of course going to rely, in part, on angry consumers showing up at the midterms and voting out House and Senate ISP marionettes like Marsha Blackburn that have repeatedly prioritized monopoly profits over competition, consumers, and the health of the internet.
Knowing full well a political backlash looms, ISPs have been pushing for a bogus net neutrality law of their own they’ve crafted in a ham-fisted attempt to pre-empt any efforts tougher rules from being passed or the FCC rules from being restored (that gambit’s going poorly so far).
Meanwhile, more than half the states in the nation are exploring state level rules in the wake of federal apathy. These efforts range from executive orders banning states from doing business with ISPs that violate net neutrality, to new state laws in places like Oregon and Washington that in some instances go even further than the FCC’s federal-level rules did.
So while supporters of net neutrality may be currently frustrated by the Trump FCC’s grotesque fealty to some of the most hated companies in America, the decision to screw consumers in such a ham-fisted fashion will result in a backlash that these ISPs are going to be feeling for the better part of the next decade.