The Senate has voted to save net neutrality, but dont get your hopes up: theres still a long, likely impossible journey ahead if the policy is to be saved in the immediate future. In a 52–47 vote today, senators voted to overturn the Federal Communication Commissions Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which took net neutrality rules off the books. They were able to do so using the Congressional Review Act, or CRA, which allows Congress to reverse recent decisions by government agencies. Republican control of Congress means that such a measure wouldnt normally even make it up for a vote; but the CRA allows senators to force a vote by obtaining 30 signatures. All 49 Democrats voted in favor, as well as Republican Senators Susan Collins, of Maine; John Kennedy, of Louisiana; and Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska. While advocates have argued that this is a step toward reinstating net neutrality, its really a long-shot attempt that seems to be meant more to get the issue back on voters minds — and to force politicians to take a position ahead of whats expected to be a tumultuous midterm election. In order for net neutrality to actually be reinstated, two more things have to happen. First, the House has to use the CRA to overturn the policy as well. Thats even harder. Instead of 30 signatures, net neutrality supporters have to collect signatures from a full majority of House members. Even if they get every single Democrat on board — and they dont have that yet — theyd still need the support of 22 Republicans. And finally, if that happened and they all voted to reverse the policy, itd still have to get signed by President Trump, who is not a fan of the policy. While its obviously an uphill battle, net neutrality advocates seem to be holding out hope that they could actually get through the House, too. Theres a degree of bipartisan agreement that something needs to be done on net neutrality. And with midterms coming up, representatives in challenging districts may be more inclined to support the popular, consumer-friendly policy. As for Trump, well, you never know exactly how hes going to wake up each day, or so the argument goes. In reality, this is more about setting up whatever comes next for net neutrality, likely a few years down the line. The general consensus at this point is that net neutrality is now out of the FCCs hands, and that Congress will have to act to reinstate some of its outgoing rules. Its not at all clear how soon thatll happen, but forcing Congress to take a vote helps to clarify the playing field and make sure its something legislators are thinking about.
This afternoon, the Senate is set to vote on whether to nullify the FCCs removal of net neutrality protections. A group of Democratic senators forced the vote under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to roll back agency regulations — in this case, the 2017 Restoring Internet Freedom Order. The resolution needs 51 votes to pass, which means a couple of Republicans will need to throw in their support; so far, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has crossed the line. The vote is expected to happen around 3PM ET today, but the Senate will start discussing it at 12PM ET, and you can catch the debate live on C-SPAN. As weve mentioned before, the resolution has a long road ahead even if it passes the Senate. It would need to be approved by a majority of the House of Representatives, then signed by President Trump, who would be rolling back a regulation crafted by his own FCC chairman Ajit Pai. But at the very least, its a chance to see where politicians come down on net neutrality. Time is also streaming the Senate debate and vote on its YouTube channel, which you can watch below.