Net neutrality must be restored. that’s a given. the decision in December by the Federal Communications Commission to abolish the First Amendment of the Internet was, in the words of dissenting commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, “not good for consumers. Not good for businesses. Not good for anyone who connects and creates online. Not good for the democratizing force that depends on openness to thrive.”
So, yes, net neutrality must be renewed. But how? Ideally, Congress would pass legislation reversing the FCC’s decision, or a federal court order would overturn it. But that could take time—years, perhaps—and if we’ve learned anything about the digital age, it’s that the future doesn’t wait for Washington to catch up.
So the pressure is now on state officials to take the lead in restoring a free and open Internet. Democratic governors and state legislators, by and large, get this. But like most of their partisan counterparts in Washington, Republicans in the states continue to position themselves on the wrong side of the issue. As errand boys for the corporations that would sacrifice open access on the altar of rank profiteering, Republican governors have already benefited from the money lavished on them and on the Republican Governors Association by the telecommunications conglomerates that hope to subdivide the Internet.
The good news is that even as these GOP governors, attorneys general, and legislators abandon the public interest, the Democrats seeking to replace them are emerging as outspoken champions of net neutrality and of a broader vision for the future of the Internet. This is smart policy and smart politics, as polling suggests that 83 percent of Americans support net neutrality and that the issue is especially important to the young voters the party hopes to mobilize this fall. Democrats in the states are increasingly recognizing that what has historically been seen as a federal matter must now be an issue at every level of American politics.
The role that Congress can play in renewing this country’s commitment to a free and open Internet is reasonably well understood, and the lines of division are clear. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell have shown little inclination to restore net neutrality—but all is not lost in the Senate. Maine Republican Susan Collins broke with her party in January and joined 49 Democrats in supporting a Congressional Review Act resolution sponsored by Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey. The CRA initiative, which seeks to reverse the FCC’s decision, requires one more supporter for the resolution to pass, and a “One More Vote” campaign to get the next Republican on board has been launched by groups including Fight for the Future and Demand Progress.