US Senate Votes to Reinstate FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules


by Ted Johnson,     May 17 2018

WASHINGTON — A resolution to restore the FCC’s net neutrality rules passed the Senate on Wednesday, giving Democrats a victory on what they see as a potent issue going into the 2018 midterms.

The Senate voted 52-47 on the resolution. Three Republicans joined with Democrats — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

If it is ultimately passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump — a big if — the net neutrality rules that the FCC had in place since 2015 would be restored. The agency’s Republican majority voted late last year to repeal them.

“We consider this one of the major issues of the 2018 campaign,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters after the vote. Although net neutrality has been an issue largely fought among lobbyists, policy wonks and activists, Schumer said it will resonate because “people understand cable and the problems with it, and they don’t want the internet to become cable.”

In December, the FCC voted 3-2 to roll back many of the existing net neutrality rules, including those prohibiting internet service providers from blocking or throttling of content, or from selling so-called “fast lanes” for speedier access to consumers.

The repeal goes into effect on June 11.

The FCC’s Republican majority, led by chairman Ajit Pai, claims that the rules were choking off investment and imposed service regulation on broadband akin to that placed on phone companies in the 1930s. The FCC also repealed the regulatory underpinning for the rules, in which internet service was classified as a common carrier.

The FCC’s move stirred opposition in Congress and in statehouses. Lawmakers in California, for instance, are weighing legislation, while a coalition of 23 state attorneys general are seeking to turn back the FCC’s action in court.

In a statement, Pai said it was “disappointing that Senate Democrats forced this resolution through by a narrow margin. But ultimately, I’m confident that their effort to reinstate heavy-handed government regulation of the Internet will fail. The internet was free and open before 2015, when the prior FCC buckled to political pressure from the White House and imposed utility-style regulation on the internet.”

The Senate resolution — led by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) — was brought to the floor under rules that enable Congress to overturn agency actions within a certain timeframe and by majority vote.

On the Senate floor, Markey said “this is a defining vote, the most important vote that we are going to have in this generation on net neutrality.”

“It goes right to the heart of our identity as a free and open society,” he said.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said the interest in the issue crosses geographic lines. “For rural America, without the Markey resolution, it means that the net moves along at a snail’s pace. It means rural businesses have a harder time getting off the ground and reaching customers,” he said.

The Senate’s move may end up being merely symbolic. It must pass in the GOP-controlled House, and it also must secure the signature of Trump. The White House has expressed its support for the FCC’s move in December to repeal the net neutrality rules, and Trump has often touted his ability to roll back government regulations.




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