The Internet Is Watching
We just made Internet history. Again. While millions of people watched online, the US House of Representatives voted 232–190 to overrule Ajit Pai’s FCC and restore net neutrality. That’s a huge deal. We now have more members of Congress on the record in support of strong open Internet protections than ever before. That’s crucial, and in the process we’re beating back the telecom industry’s attempts to pass bad legislation that would undermine net neutrality for good.
What Happens Next
The fight now moves to the Senate, where we’ll have to fight tooth and nail to bring the Save the Internet Act to a vote. Journalists are already repeating the telecom talking point that the bill is dead in the water — but that’s only true if we give up. A similar bill, the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, passed the Senate with bipartisan support in 2018. While the makeup of the Senate has changed, we’re already seeing glimmers of hope: Senator John Kennedy (R — LA), who sided with his constituents to vote for net neutrality in 2018, recently told a Washington Post reporter that he would do it again.
The political dynamics could also dramatically change when a major court decision on the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality comes down. There are even ways that net neutrality supporters in the Senate could attempt to force a vote on the Save the Internet Act by attaching it to the year-end government funding bill, for example.
But the bottom line is this — we can’t sit around waiting for politicians or big tech companies to save the Internet. It’s up to us. We came together and spoke out and got HR 1644 passed in the House. Now we need to keep the pressure on, and turn up the volume even louder, to take the fight forward.
How We Did It
The livestream came on the heels of a massive grassroots push to restore net neutrality. Dozens of allied groups including Fight for the Future worked for weeks to set up in-district events and drive calls, tweets, and emails to Congress. The morning of the House vote we began livestreaming, and had policy experts like Candace Clement from Free Press and Sarah Morris from OTI join to discuss the details of the Save the Internet Act. Vikrum Aiyer from Postmates and Omar Hakim from Consumer Reports joined us and explained how digital rights influence businesses and consumers. We even had musician and activist Tom Morello show up in support of the cause:
But things really got heated when we began broadcasting the debate. Predictably, Congressional opponents of net neutrality rolled out the same, false talking points about net neutrality that they’ve been repeating for years. And politicians like Representative Greg Walden (R — OR 2nd) did their best to distract the public from net neutrality by trying to conflate it with other measures, such as rural broadband:
Thankfully, Representative Mike Doyle (D — PA 18th) took to the floor and set the record straight with several impassioned speeches about the importance of online freedom. His last comments before the vote literally inspired a standing ovation in the House:
More importantly, it inspired the tens of thousands of Twitch.TV viewers who were watching live to cheer on the lawmaker from Pennsylvania by posting encouragement and reaction emojis in support.
All this activity even caught the attention of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D — CA 12th), who took time in her remarks to specifically mention the hundreds of thousands of people who were tuning in via livestream:
When the final votes were counted, the Save the Internet Act passed, 232–190, with Representative Bill Posey (R — FL 8th) crossing party lines to stand with 83% of American voters — including 75% of Republican voters — and make victory bipartisan.
During the course of the procedural debates, the amendment debates, and the final vote, Fight for the Future’s livestreams garnered over 6 million views, generating tens of thousands of phone calls and letters to Congress. It makes perfect sense that those who use the Internet the most will be those who are most invested in keeping it free. This is democracy in the digital age.
Contact Your Lawmakers
Next we’re taking the fight to the Senate. Last year three Republican senators put their constituents before big telecom companies and voted to restore net neutrality. Now we have to make them do it again. While John Kennedy of Louisiana has already said he will vote to support net neutrality again, Senator Susan Collins (R — ME) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R — AK) have so far been silent.
If Senator Collins and Murkowski don’t publicly support the Save the Internet Act (S.682) soon, we could lose momentum in our fight to gain bipartisan support for net neutrality. We must convince Collins and Murkowski to join with Senator Kennedy and publicly renew their support for the open Internet. If we can get them on board, we have a solid shot at building the critical mass we need in the Senate to beat back the telecom industry and save net neutrality once and for all. Click here to contact your senator and ask them to support real, strong net neutrality protections as soon as possible.