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.
The Senate today voted 52-47 to disapprove the FCCs recent order replacing 2015s net neutrality rules, a pleasant surprise for internet advocates and consumers throughout the country. Although the disapproval will almost certainly not lead to the new rules being undone, it is a powerful statement of solidarity with a constituency activated against this deeply unpopular order. To be clear, the FCCs Restoring Internet Freedom is still set to take effect in June. BREAKING: The Senate just voted to restore #NetNeutrality! We won. To all of those who kept fighting and didnt get discouraged: you did this. You raised your voices and we heard you. Thank you. Now the fight continues. On to the House! Senate Joint Resolution 52 officially disapproves the rule under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to undo recently created rules by federal agencies. It will have to pass in the House as well and then be signed by the president for the old rules to be restored (that or a two-thirds majority, which is equally unlikely). On the other hand, forcing everyone in Congress to officially weigh in will potentially make this an issue in the upcoming midterms. Do you support net neutrality? Every candidate in America is going to be asked that question, said Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) at a press conference after the vote. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) related that a Republican colleague of his told him that their office had received more than 6,000 calls from people expressing support for net neutrality and the FCCs original rules, and 10 opposed. People who use the internet all the time realize what this is about. Millions of calls, we dont get that on every issue. People intuitively get this, said Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) at the press conference. Commission Impossible: How and why the FCC created net neutralityUntil yesterday Senate Democrats, who brought the resolution, had 50 supporters, including one Republican, more than enough to force the issue to be voted on, but not enough to actually pass. Two more Republicans, Alaskas Lisa Murowski and Louisianas John Kennedy joined Maines Susan Collins (the first to cross the aisle) to vote aye on the measure, making the final tally 52-47. (The missing vote belongs to Sen. McCain, who is absent while fighting cancer.) We salute them for their courage, said Senate minority leader Nancy Pelosi at the press conference. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel commended the Senates action. Today the United States Senate took a big step to fix the serious mess the FCC made when it rolled back net neutrality late last year, she said in a statement. Todays vote is a sign that the fight for internet freedom is far from over. Ill keep raising a ruckus to support net neutrality and I hope others will too. Chairman Ajit Pai, however, was less congratulatory in his own statement. Its disappointing that Senate Democrats forced this resolution through by a narrow margin, he said, But ultimately, Im confident that their effort to reinstate heavy-handed government regulation of the Internet will fail. Both he and Commissioner Carr cited a three-Pinnochio fact-check of Democratic claims regarding net neutrality thats a good guide to avoiding the hysteria occasionally encountered in this debate but provides precious little support for Restoring Internet Freedom, which is itself plagued by technical misunderstandings. The FCCs case against net neutrality rests on a deliberate misrepresentation of how the internet worksRepresentative Mike Doyle, who has been working on the corresponding effort in the House, said he is taking the next step tomorrow morning. With the Majority Leadership in the House opposed to this bill, the only way to bring it before the full House for a vote is through a discharge petition. Under the rules of the House, a bill must be brought to the House Floor for a vote if a majority of Representatives sign a discharge petition demanding it. Im filing a discharge petition to force a vote on the legislation to save Net Neutrality, and we just need to get a majority of Representatives to sign it. Im sure that every Member of the House will want to know where their constituents stand on this issue. As everyone notes above, the fight continues. Be sure to contact your member of Congress.