EFF Makes the Case for Bringing Network Neutrality Fight to Congress

In spite of skepticism from some observers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a game plan to bring the network neutrality fight to congress.

The fight to keep a free and open Internet in the US rages on. Last week, proponent for network neutrality scored a major victory when the senate voted in favour of initiating the Congressional Review Act. That can help pave the way to overturning the decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to kill network neutrality.

Of course, the senate is just one of the legislative branches. There is still the congress as well as the executive branch. Observers point out that the senate is where something like this is most likely to succeed because it required the fewest number of people to cross the floor and join the Democrats in supporting Internet freedom. That may lead some people into concluding that this is as far as the fight to protect the Internet is going to go in government.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), however, has a different take on the situation. They say that it is still possible to win over congress and keep the momentum going.

In focus is what is known as a discharge petition. The discharge petition requires 218 signatures from members of congress. This would force a vote on the matter regardless of whether or not the speaker or congressional leaders wish to bring the matter to a vote. This would alley some fears that the speaker would refuse to allow Internet freedom to come to a vote. As such, the EFF is calling on the American public to keep up the fight and put pressure on their representative to sign that petition:

You need to tell your House member to “sign the discharge petition on net neutrality.” Too often they will feign support for net neutrality or argue in favor of a fake net neutrality bill that actually legalizes paid prioritization (essentially allowing ISPs to charge websites for priority and slowing down parties that do not pay extra fees). As the polls of public opinion make clear, that position is not about what their constituents want and is more likely related to ISP lobbying and their campaign money.

Do not give them that space.

Make it clear that signing the discharge petition is the only way they can prove they support a free and open Internet. Supporting the discharge petition is a commitment to supporting net neutrality and voting for keeping the old protections. Anything falling short of signing it is both in effect and in outcome a vote against net neutrality. ­

That means calling their office on the phone to make the demand, going to a town-hall, or visiting their local district office, and making it clear you want them to sign the discharge petition. A politician can listen to a constituent demand a vote only so many times before it overwhelms the political money of companies like AT&T and Comcast. They answer to you first at the end of the day.

The EFF also points out that Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA) has already initiated the discharge petition on May 17. They also point out that 160 congressional members have already “pre-committed” to signing that petition. That means they only need 58 more supports to make the discharge petition a reality.

If anything, this shows that the fight to save network neutrality is far from over in government. It is very likely that advocates for an open Internet will not stop until all avenues have been exhausted to save the Internet. We will continue to monitor the situation to see where things go from here.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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