FCC’s Net Neutrality Repeal Published in the Federal Register

The FCC’s network neutrality repeal has now been published in the federal register. This signals the next stage in the battle to save the Internet in the US.

A lot of focus has been centred around when the network neutrality repeal would be entered in the federal register. Since the repeal vote which went down party lines, observers knew that the next stage in this debate from the regulators perspective is when it will be published in the federal register.

While there is a time delay between the vote and the publication, that doesn’t mean those who are fighting to save the Internet can’t do anything. In fact, a lot of action has already taken place prior to the publication. Lawmakers in 28 states have either tabled legislation or issued executive orders protecting network neutrality. This in spite of the fact that part of the network neutrality order forbids states from enacting their own network neutrality laws.

In addition to this, there are already lawsuits being filed to stop the order from moving ahead. The lawsuits are being filed by major Internet companies and organizations.

Meanwhile, at the federal level, senators are rallying behind a bill that would reverse the regulators decision. This may have been helped in part by the fact that Internet founders were working the halls of government to try and reverse this decision.

So, now we’ve reached this point where the decision is officially in the federal register. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is saying that the fight to save the Internet “really begins”:

First, under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress can reverse a change in regulation with a simple majority vote. That would bring the 2015 Open Internet Order back into effect. Congress has 60 working days—starting from when the rule is published in the official record—to do this. So those 60 days start now.

The Senate bill has 50 supporters, only one away from the majority it needs to pass. The House of Representatives is a bit further away. By our count, 114 representatives have made public commitments in support of voting for a CRA action. Now that time is ticking down for the vote, tell Congress to save the existing net neutrality rules.

Second, it is now unambiguous that the lawsuits of 22 states, public interest groups, Mozilla, and the Internet Association can begin. While the FCC decision said lawsuits had to wait ten days until after the official publication, there was some question about whether federal law said something else. So while some suits have already been filed, with the 10-day counter from the FCC starting, it’s clear that lawsuits can begin.

And, of course, states and other local governments continue to move forward on their own measures to protect net neutrality. 26 state legislatures are considering net neutrality legislation and five governors have issued executive orders on net neutrality. EFF has some ideas on how state law can stand up to the FCC order. Community broadband can also ensure that net neutrality principles are enacted on a local level. For example, San Francisco is currently looking for proposals to build an open-access network that would require net neutrality guarantees from any ISP looking to offer services over the city-owned infrastructure.

In theory, ISPs can’t begin prioritizing traffic, block or shape traffic just yet. However, the entry into the federal register means that we are one step closer to allowing such activity. The good news is that there is a lot of people willing to fight to keep the internet open. The bad news is that we don’t necessarily know how this will all shake down in the end. At the very least, supporters are trying anything and everything to save the open Internet. As a result, we are no doubt in for a tough fight ahead.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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