Technology

As Senate Jumps Into Net Neutrality Debate, Advocacy Heats Up

As Senate Democrats use every vote they have to force a debate about net neutrality on the Senate floor, advocacy groups are ramping up their work against the FCC’s open internet rules online—and while those measures have a lot of supporters, not everyone’s a fan.

A move by Senate Democrats to make an end-run around the rollback of net neutrality by the Federal Communications Commission is getting a push from the same associations and advocacy groups that have long opposed the FCC’s moves.

And as senators eye a plan to force a vote on blocking the FCC repeal under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) this week, supporters of such a move, who have remained in conversation in the months since the FCC voted to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality measure, found their voice in a coordinated response, one that was hard to miss if you were online Wednesday.

This week, some of the largest websites —including Reddit, GitHub, and Tumblr—featured a “red alert” banner warning that net neutrality rules were about to take effect. (Tumblr’s move to support net neutrality is notable, by the way, because it was purchased by the net-neutrality-critical Verizon last year as part of its deal to buy Yahoo.)

Also speaking out on Wednesday were nearly 6,000 small businesses, on a website organized by an advocacy group called Businesses for Net Neutrality. And if you opened up an Alaska newspaper on Wednesday morning, you may have seen a full-page ad calling on Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who has occasionally sided with Democrats on major issues, to support the Senate vote.

Each of these efforts was organized with the help of Fight for the Future, a digital rights advocacy group that has gained much attention in recent years for its online campaigning in regard to net neutrality.

“This senate vote will be the most important moment for net neutrality since the FCC repeal. Now is the time to fight,” said Evan Greer, the advocacy group’s deputy director, in a statement ahead of the campaign. “Every Internet user, every startup, every small business—the Internet must come together to sound the alarm and save net neutrality.”

Of course, the move by Senate Democrats also has a wide number of supporters, among them tech and telecom groups such as Internet Association and INCOMPAS.

A Critic’s Tough Words

But, of course, the conflict has its opponents. One particularly pointed voice in the debate is Jonathan Spalter, the president and CEO of USTelecom, who greeted the Senate measure with a tough-worded op-ed on Morning Consult  earlier this week that questioned why some of the tech world’s biggest companies weren’t being targeted by the net neutrality efforts, argued that the measures on which the net neutrality rule was built are outdated regulatory rules, and emphasized that the net neutrality rule currently in effect would have severe economic effects if kept around.

Spalter argued that new legislation was a better approach—especially considering the bill had no chance of passing in the House.

“The CRA has been a massive political undertaking, pressuring lawmakers to support a largely symbolic bill that will not pass the U.S. House or gain the president’s signature,” he wrote in his editorial. “America’s digital consumers deserve far better than a hurried and counterproductive policy process. A vote against the CRA is a vote for doing the harder work of enacting modern legislation that delivers consistent safeguards across the online world.”

(noLimit46/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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