It was a long shot, but net neutrality advocates got their day in the US Senate—and they won.
The 52-47 victory marks the first step in the process of overturning the Federal Communications Commission’s Dec. 2017 decision to repeal net neutrality rules. The move allows US telecoms to block, slow, or charge more for certain content. The decision is scheduled to take effect on June 11.
But the fight is just beginning. The Senate’s vote triggers the Congressional Review Act (CRA) allowing Congress to overturn executive agencies’ regulations. It creates a period of 60 “session days” (when Congress is in session) for legislators to gather enough support to force a majority vote in the House and Senate to overturn agency rules. The president then has to sign the resolution. To make it stick, the CRA prohibits agencies from reissuing any rule in “substantially the same form,” effectively turning the CRA into a law-making tool in its own right. If it passes, the Open Internet Order of 2015 would be reinstated, pending Trump’s sign-off.
It has happened before. Only one reversal occurred under the CRA before 2016 (a Clinton-era ergonomic rule for the workplace). But in 2017, Republicans under Donald Trump weaponized the CRA for partisan warfare, eliminating 15 (pdf) of Obama’s regulations.
Today’s vote was good news for net neutrality advocates, but it still has many hurdles to clear before anything changes. Republicans’ hold on the White House and the House of Representatives means the effort is unlikely to succeed. But it’s not impossible. Republicans have been peeling off from the issue for a while. Net neutrality is wildly popular with the public, and with Trump’s popularity polls underwater, a move like this might just survive the trip from Capital Hill.