The net neutrality debate is not quite finished. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely seen heated discussions regarding how the internet should be regulated and who should be in charge of that regulation.
Since 2015, that job has fallen to the FCC, but they recently changed the rules. Many people wonder why we haven’t seen much change since then. The biggest reason is that the switch hasn’t actually happened yet. Any time an agency like the FCC makes a change to federal rules, Congress gets a chance to intervene. That is what we will be discussing today.
The Congressional Review Act
Understanding the state of net neutrality requires a fast lesson in the legislative process. In 1996, the Congressional Review Act was signed into law. It gives Congress the power to overturn the federal policy that is enacted by government agencies. In this case, the changes to net neutrality stem from the FCC, so Congress has the right to review that decision. The process for Congressional review starts in the Senate. They can choose to discuss and vote on a particular policy. Unlike most law, a policy can be overturned in the Senate by a simple majority, as opposed to the 60 votes typically required to sign a bill.
The FCC’s decision on net neutrality reached the Senate for a vote on Wednesday, May 16. The review passed. This means that the Senate has officially ruled against the FCC and voted to keep the existing net neutrality rules in place. This does not, however, mean that the issue is decided. The Senate represents only one of three cogs in this gear.
What Happens Next?
Since the review made it through the Senate, it will now be presented to the House of Representatives. They will have to vote on the issue, so they cannot kick it down the road. Since they have not yet voted, there are two obvious possibilities. First, it could pass. Most experts think this is unlikely, but we’ll still explore the potential. If the House agrees with the Senate, then the review will be presented to the President. He can either sign it or veto it. If he were to veto (which is a sentiment he has expressed so far), then the resolution would return to Congress. Like any legislation, they could overrule the veto if both the House and Senate vote in favor of review with a two-thirds majority.
Overall, that’s the less-likely scenario. Most experts expect the review to die in the House. Even if it didn’t, it is extremely unlikely that this review would overcome a veto. With that in mind, the current status of net neutrality regulation is likely to soon end. When it does, the internet will still have plenty of regulations, but internet providership will be governed by the FTC rather than the FCC. Even then, Congress still has the power to write additional legislation regarding net neutrality, but that’s far enough away that we can’t reasonably speculate what the final draft of any such bill would actually look like.
What Does it Mean for Business?
That was a fun trip through the legislative process. We discussed a lot of legal technicalities, but you’re here for the bottom line. For most businesses, this change will have virtually no immediate impact. Years down the road, changes to net neutrality could shape the evolution of business over the internet, but that’s extremely speculative at best. Realistically, your operations will remain unchanged, even if your business is heavily reliant on internet traffic.
There is one exception. Businesses that primarily operate through content sharing over the internet could see some rapid changes (e.g. Netflix and Hulu). The most prevalent adjustment to internet law will alter negotiations between content hosts and internet providers. To put it simply, internet providers are going to have more power and freedom to negotiate who has to pay for infrastructure. If your business invests heavily in data infrastructure, you might see costs go up. For everyone else, it will be business as usual.
Net neutrality is a complicated and often touchy subject. So, let’s recap. The Senate ruled against the FCC’s decision, but unless the House and President agree with the Senate, the FCC is going to have their way. It will change how the internet is regulated, but for the foreseeable future, the only businesses this will impact are those that pay for major internet infrastructure. If you haven’t already been negotiating with cable companies over who has to pay for installing the next set of cables and pipelines, you aren’t going to have to start any time soon.
About the Author: Chantel Soumis
Chantel Soumis brings over a decade of knowledge in workflow enhancement through the use of technology. Chantel studied marketing communications and business administration at Franklin University and proceeded to work in a fast, ambitious environment, assuring client delight in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Passionate about project productivity and streamlining workflows through the use of technology, Chantel strives to inform organizations of Valicom’s advanced telecom expense management software and services by mastering communications and messaging while delivering helpful information and supporting resources.