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Net neutrality fight returns to D.C.

FILFederal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai.AP/File

When Ajit Pai orchestrated the death of net neutrality protections in December, he probably hoped he could put the issue behind him.

Good luck with that. The Federal Communications Commission chairman faced instant blowback for ending Obama-era rules that had prevented service providers like Comcast and AT&T from creating Internet “fast lanes” for those willing to pay up.

Now, Democrats hope to turn this into an important election-year issue.

Senator Ed Markey is gathering votes for a Senate bill that would overturn the FCC decision. Think of it as a reversal of a reversal. Markey can’t file the bill until the ruling is listed in the Federal Register, something that’s expected any day now . Markey has all 49 Democrats on board, and one Republican (Susan Collins of Maine). He needs one more colleague.

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The legislation faces a harder time in the House, where Representative Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania is still a bit short, with about 130 votes counted so far. And if a bill passes the House, it faces a likely Trump veto. That, in turn, sets up the need for two-thirds votes in Congress.

Pai portrayed the old rules as micromanagement that discouraged Internet infrastructure investments. But net-neutrality proponents say the pro-consumer rules helped give smaller tech firms an even playing field with rivals who can more easily afford to pay.

A legal challenge could carve up Pai’s rule first. State attorneys general are sharpening their knives, and tech companies may back litigation as well. But the pro-neutrality forces want to keep the pressure on Congress, and to show Republicans who run from the issue that they do so at their own political peril.