Net Neutrality Effort Draws Mixed Reactions From FCC Members

A bipartisan Senate effort to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s December rollback of net neutrality rules drew mixed reactions from FCC commissioners at a Las Vegas trade show Jan. 9.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) Jan. 9 became perhaps the first Republican lawmaker to voice support for a plan backed by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to invoke the Congressional Review Act to void the FCC’s action. The agency voted along party lines in December to scrap its net neutrality rules for internet service providers’ network management. It also undid its underlying regulatory classification of broadband as a common carrier service akin to telephone service under communications law.

“We’ll just have to see how it plays out,” GOP Commissioner Michael O’Rielly told Bloomberg Law at the CES 2018 trade show organized by the Consumer Technology Association. “Congress has that opportunity and took advantage of it earlier this Congress on a number of things, and we’ll just see where this goes,” O’Rielly said.

Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn told reporters she thinks Collins signing on could be a sign of broad bipartisan support for using the CRA to reverse the FCC’s net neutrality order.

“It’s bipartisan when it comes to the displeasure in this country, and so I guess I’m not surprised it would be bipartisan when it comes to the Senate body,” Clyburn said. She said she was hopeful a critical mass of Republicans in the House will agree, noting that GOP lawmakers including Reps. Mike Coffman (Colo.) and Jeff Fortenberry (Neb.) wrote FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to oppose the December vote.

Republican Brendan Carr remained skeptical. “It’s got to go through the Senate, got to go through the House, got to get the president to sign on it. I’m not going to comment on the odds of all that happening,” Carr told Bloomberg Law.

Lawmakers have 60 legislative days under the CRA to reverse an action taken by a federal agency. The clock starts once the final text of an agency decision has been published in the Federal Register. It may be several months before the net neutrality order is published there following an Office of Management and Budget review.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kyle Daly in Washington at kdaly@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com