On April 23, the Federal Communications Commission will start to kill off net neutrality rules. That's the day when the ongoing process to repeal the rules begins, but the White House Office of Management and Budget still has to sign off before the core net neutrality protections are reversed. The date was made public when the FCC’s order rolling back net neutrality rules entered the Federal Register Thursday morning.
And now, a new fight can begin to save the rules that prohibit internet service providers from slowing websites or charging premiums for "fast lanes" for specific services or higher-quality streaming. Back in December, the FCC voted to move forward with its plan to eliminate these net neutrality protections. But those that wanted to challenge the repeal in court had to wait for the official order to be published before they could sue to block it from taking effect. Now they can.
The order has galvanized everyone from consumer advocacy groups and attorneys to technology companies and citizen activists. A coalition of more than 20 state attorneys general, plus the consumer groups Public Knowledge, Free Press, and New America's Open Technology Institute, among others, filed a barrage of early lawsuits in January, and started to refile these suits seeking to block the order from taking effect today.
Tech companies Mozilla and Vimeo sued the FCC Thursday for repealing net neutrality. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and many other state attorneys general formally commenced their lawsuit in the afternoon.
The repeal of net neutrality is considered a major win for Republicans, who led the vote back in December to overturn the Obama-era internet protections. But it is considered highly unpopular among consumers across the aisle, with 83% of Americans opposing the deregulation in a recent survey. Net neutrality advocates argue that the rules are essential for an open and competitive internet. A repeal, supporters of net neutrality say, would take away the level playing field of the internet and favor the bigger players online, harming smaller actors who want to get into the field, and would ultimately hurt consumers.
Congress can undo the rollback of net neutrality if a majority of the House and Senate vote to overturn the FCC's order within 60 legislative days. In January, according to a Reuters report, US Senate Democrats said they had the backing of 50 members of the 100-person chamber for repeal — one vote short of a majority.
To that end, net neutrality advocates and technology companies, including Medium, Tumblr, Etsy, Github, and Vimeo, among others, are planning a day of mass online protest on Feb. 27, similar to a previous net neutrality "day of action" during which companies like Netflix, Twitter, and Reddit embedded messages of support for net neutrality into their websites and apps.
A spokesperson for Netflix told BuzzFeed News Thursday morning, "We support strong neutrality, full stop."
"Etsy sellers and other microbusinesses depend on strong net neutrality protections to start and grow their businesses online," Althea Erickson, head of advocacy and impact at Etsy, said in an emailed statement. "Now that the FCC has made their attack on net neutrality official, we’re jumping into action to fight back on all fronts."
The February day of action has been dubbed "Operation One More Vote."