Senate Approves Measure to Reinstate Net Neutrality

Roman Schwartz
May 17, 2018

Deemed "the most important vote for the internet in the history of the US Senate" by author Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from MA, the resolution would reverse the FCC's December 2017 repeal of net neutrality rules that were put in place in 2015.

The resolution has drawn the support of half of all senators, but it needs a majority vote to pass.

Kamala Harris, a Democratic Senator from California, tweeted, "Today's vote on #Net Neutrality is one of the most impactful votes the U.S. Senate has ever taken on the future of the internet".

Even if it passes, the resolution faces a dubious future, as it would go to the House of Representatives and, if it passes there, to President Donald Trump. It is not clear if the U.S. House will vote at all on the measure while the White House has said it is opposed.

Earlier Congressional attempts to overturn the FCC ruling had come to nothing. Many Republicans consider these requirements burdensome for internet providers, and that competition in an open market will allow industry players to self-govern.

Republicans voting for the measure included Susan Collins, of Maine, John Kennedy, of Louisiana, and Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska. The practical point of this vote is not to restore net neutrality but to force the Republicans to show their true anti-net neutrality colors before the midterm elections. The Republican-controlled FCC in 2017 voted to get rid of those rules and replace them.

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The resolution will seek to overturn a rule voted on by the FCC in December that would eliminate most of its net-neutrality regulations. The FCC also repealed the regulatory underpinning for the rules, in which internet service was classified as a common carrier.

The last-ditch effort comes just weeks before June 11, the date designated by the FCC as the end of rules on net neutrality, the idea that all material on the internet should be treated equally and access should not be restricted or favored by internet providers in any way.

Approving a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would undo the FCC's December vote to deregulate the industry, the CRA has to be further approved by the House and then signed by President Trump.

Ahead of the vote, a large number of major websites joined in a "Red Alert" protest where they directed internet users to pages where they could ask their local lawmakers to support the CRA.

The Internet Association, a trade group backed by Facebook, Uber and others, has said that regulations targeting Silicon Valley on hate speech risks running afoul of the First Amendment. He said the Senate is working on bipartisan legislation that embodies those principles. Net neutrality is critical to small businesses, innovation, and the free and open internet we all hold dear.

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