Earlier this year, the Senate narrowly voted to approve a Congressional Review Act resolution that would overturn the FCC’s repeal of the Obama Administration’s Open Internet Order.
Everyone realizes, however, that the CRA will not get through the House of Representatives or be signed by President Trump. It is a distracting symbolic ploy that does nothing to settle the decades-old net neutrality controversy.
The supporters of the resolution have said as much. As Sens. Chuck Schumer and Ed Markey readily admit, their goal is to cynically use net neutrality as a wedge issue to drive millennials to vote for Democrats in the midterm elections. In other words, the Senate CRA vote was about political positioning, not protecting the internet.
Do Democratic leaders really think millennial are their naïve, unsuspecting marionettes? While young voters strongly support open-internet rules, they want a real solution, not symbolic chest pounding. Millennials have the same frustrations as most Americans with a Congress that puts rhetoric and political maneuvering ahead of action. This CRA effort to pursue political gain instead of solutions insults their intelligence and trivializes their concerns.
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The CRA resolution will almost certainly never become law and, even if it did, would only extend what is already an endless debate with no permanent resolution in sight. The long litigation process would lumber along for years. And renewed squabbling at regulatory agencies would set a whole new net neutrality proceeding in motion, relitigating an already exhausted fight and rehashing the same tired arguments on all sides. And future elections will only bring another cycle of “lather, rinse, repeat” where the issue is rebooted every time the FCC changes hands. Lawyers, lobbyists and activists may profit from this, but no one else will.
Even worse, the CRA approach to net neutrality would actually set back key policy goals the millennial generation cares deeply about. It will do nothing to secure privacy, protect our elections or ensure that giant internet platforms don’t continue to be the handmaiden for sex traffickers, bigots and unethical business practices. In the wake of the Facebook revelations and countless other data breaches, millennials — like the rest of Americans — want these companies reined in.
Surveys by Axios/SurveyMonkey repeatedly show majorities want solutions for these yawning internet dysfunctions but instead of stepping up to address the tough questions that could offend their donors, out of touch Democratic elites on Capitol Hill cower and opt instead for symbolic gestures (full disclosure: I’m a registered Democrat).
And the CRA would only make things worse. Astonishingly, if it passed it would actually reduce privacy protections, by taking away the FTC’s power over internet providers. For all the self-righteousness about protecting consumers online, the sponsors of this resolution can only hope millennial voters will not notice the violence it does to our privacy. It’s a stunningly tone deaf approach that assumes policymakers can just hold up a card that reads “net neutrality” and the millennial audience will respond on Election Day like lap dogs. That’s not how deeply informed, engaged young people think.
A serious legislative effort to enshrine permanent net neutrality rules — without sacrificing online privacy to the titans of Silicon Valley – would require both sides to do the hard work and make the compromises need to craft bipartisan net neutrality and privacy legislation. There is strong support for this if America’s political class — on both sides of the aisle — would start doing the peoples’ business rather than playing endless politics.
As the Los Angeles Times editorial board (which, like me, supports net neutrality) recently stated, “Rather than jousting over a resolution of disapproval, Congress needs to put this issue to bed once and for all by crafting a bipartisan deal giving the commission limited but clear authority to regulate broadband providers and preserve net neutrality.”
If our political leaders want our vote, they should focus more seriously on delivering the goods rather than playing us as fools.
Lena Carew is an educator and co-Founder and chief operations officer of The Justice Collective.