A Win for Net Neutrality Activists: First House Republican Backs Effort to Reinstate Protections

“The dam is breaking, as it should.” That’s how Faiz Shakir, the ACLU’s national political director, responded on Tuesday after Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado became the first House Republican to sign a petition to force a vote on a measure that would reinstate net neutrality protections that the GOP-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rolled back in December.

“Rep. Coffman’s support to undo FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s repeal of net neutrality shows that public pressure is continuing to build on this issue and cannot be ignored this November,” Shakir added. “Other House members should take heed of Coffman’s direction and stand by the overwhelming majority of their constituents, not corporate interests.”

While several states have taken steps to protect net neutrality at a local level, the coalition of consumer advocacy and free speech groups fighting Pai’s repeal plan, which officially took effect last month, has rallied behind a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would override the FCC’s vote. Led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the Senate narrowly approved the resolution in May.

However, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has refused to bring the resolution to the floor, even though Americans across the political spectrum overwhelmingly opposed the FCC’s vote to kill net neutrality protections. If enough GOP lawmakers back a discharge petition, though, they could force a vote. Advocates welcomed Coffman’s decision as a vital step toward convincing more Republicans to support the petition and the resolution.

As Markey put it: “The tide is turning. The pressure is mounting. The floodgates are open.”

“By supporting this measure, Congressman Coffman is putting the interests of his constituents and the American people ahead of monopoly cable and telecommunications providers,” declared former FCC commissioner and current Common Cause special adviser Michael Copps. “We urge Congressman Coffman’s Republican colleagues to follow his lead and sign the discharge petition to restore net neutrality. It’s the right thing to do.”

Net neutrality supporters continue to organize events across the country to pressure lawmakers to act.

While Coffman also introduced new net neutrality legislation on Tuesday, Free Press Action Fund government relations director Sandra Fulton said it “is highly unlikely” that his his 21st Century Internet Act is somehow stronger than the rules rolled back by the FCC.

“And no matter how weak or strong Coffman’s new bill is on paper, it has no chance of passing in this Congress,” Fulton concluded. “The CRA is the best and only chance legislators have to restore these crucial rights this year.”