It’s getting down to the wire for activists looking to save Obama-era net neutrality rules.
On Thursday, supporters held a final internet-wide day of action to help preserve the rules, which were adopted in 2015 under a Democrat-led Federal Communications Commission and repealed last year by a Republican-led FCC.
The US House of Representatives has until the end of the legislative session to pass the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which would reverse the FCC’s repeal and preserve net neutrality. This means a vote must take place no later than Dec. 10.
Ahead of that deadline, thousands of internet users signed an open letter to lawmakers and posted selfies with the tagline “I support net neutrality” in an effort to get members of Congress to support the CRA.
“These folks are sending a clear message to Congress,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, the grassroots group that helped organize the protest. “If they choose to go against the will of the vast majority of Americans and ignore net neutrality, they will have to look into the faces of their constituents as they do it.”
Companies including Reddit, Tumblr and Airbnb, as well as celebrities such as actress Alyssa Milano and musician Tom Morello have also joined the effort. Democrats in Congress, like Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, have also taken to Twitter to voice their support for net neutrality and encourage their colleagues to step up and sign onto the CRA discharge petition.
The FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules has sparked protests from big companies and average people alike. Net neutrality is the principle that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally, regardless of whether it involves checking Facebook, posting pictures to Instagram, streaming movies from Netflix or streaming movies from Netflix or Amazon. Supporters of net neutrality say the internet as we know it may not exist much longer without the protections, but critics have said the rules stifled investment.
A CRA resolution passed the Senate in May. Now, to officially turn back the repeal, it must be passed by the House and then signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Supporters of the measure acknowledge it’s an uphill battle that they’re likely to lose. The resolution needs 218 signatures to secure a Dec. 10 vote on the House floor. With the addition of Rep. Joe Morelle, a Democrat from New York, who on Thursday signed on to support the CRA, there are still only 178 votes in favor.
Even Rep. Doyle, who spearheaded the effort in the House, told Politico earlier this month that the CRA effort to reinstate net neutrality is likely to fail.
“It just doesn’t have the kind of the push it would need to get us over the top,” Doyle said. “We’re coming to the end of the session and this lame duck’s going to be dealing with a lot of things that are probably going to take precedence.”
Though the end of the legislative session ends the effort to reinstate the rules via the CRA, thewill continue. Several states, including California, have passed their own laws to protect net neutrality. The battle also rages on in the courts as supporters challenge the repeal. There’s also the possibility that a new Congress will draft new legislation to protect net neutrality.
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