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Senate votes to reinstate net neutrality


(Reuters) — The U.S. Senate voted 52 to 47 on Wednesday to reverse the Federal Communications Commission decision in December to repeal landmark 2015 net neutrality rules, but it still faces an uphill battle. The margin was larger than expected with three Republicans voting with 47 Democrats and two independents to reverse the Trump administration action. Many politicians are convinced the issue will help motivate younger people to vote in the 2018 congressional elections and numerous polls show overwhelming public support. It is not clear if the U.S. House of Representatives will vote at all on the measure, while the White House has said it opposed repealing the December FCC order. Lets treat the internet like the public good that it is. We dont let water companies or phone companies discriminate against customers; we dont restrict access to interstate highways, saying you can ride on the highway, and you cant, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said. We shouldnt do that with the internet either. The FCC in December repealed rules set under Democratic President Barack Obama that barred internet service providers from blocking or slowing access to content or charging consumers more for certain content. The 2015 rules were intended to ensure a free and open internet, give consumers equal access to Web content and bar broadband service providers from favoring their own material or others. The new rules require internet providers to tell consumers whether they will block or slow content or offer paid fast lanes. Republicans say they back open internet principles and want Democrats to negotiate to enshrine net neutrality rules in law. Senator John Thune, who chairs the Commerce Committee, said the fact of the matter is nothing is going to change after the new rules take effect — and will not prod people to vote. I dont know how that animates people to vote if their Netflix is working, he told Reuters. The vote was a rare win for Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate and a rebuke to regulators that approved a sweeping repeal of the Obama rules. Last week, the FCC said the net neutrality rules would expire on June 11 and that the new regulations approved in December, handing providers broad new power over how consumers can access the internet, would take effect. The revised rules were a win for internet service providers, whose practices faced significant government oversight and FCC investigations under the 2015 order. But the new rules are opposed by internet firms like Facebook and Alphabet. Comcast, Verizon Communications and AT&T have pledged to not block or discriminate against legal content after the net neutrality rules expire. A group of 22 states have sued the FCC over the repeal. AT&T said Wednesday it backs an open internet and actual bipartisan legislation that applies to all internet companies and guarantees neutrality, transparency, openness, non-discrimination and privacy protections for all internet users. The FCC decided in 2015 to reclassify internet service providers as common carriers under a 1996 law. But unlike how utilities are treated, the FCC decided not to impose rate regulations or require broadband providers to file notice of pricing plans.

Senate barely passes resolution to restore net neutrality


The fight continues as it heads to the House. A spirited campaign by Democratic lawmakers to save net neutrality has passed the Senate, moving one step closer toward forestalling its scheduled demise on June 11th. The vote was predictably close along party lines: In addition to every Democrat supporting the legislation, the final 52-47 tally featured three Republican legislators, Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and John Kennedy (R-LA), voting in favor of the bill. "We don't let water companies or phone companies discriminate against customers, we don't restrict access to freeways deciding you can use them and you can't," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said before the official vote. "Are you on the side of large internet companies, or are you on the side of American families? That's what this debate is about." Of course, after its passage, this Resolution of Disapproval heads to the House of Representatives. There, Democrats need 25 Republicans to agree to force a vote, but there it would likely be shot down. Even if it succeeds, the bill would head to Trump's desk and an almost certain veto. There's a lot of work to preserve net neutrality before its repeal in June, and some dismissed the bill as insufficient and partisan. "I rise in support of net neutrality, but there are many of us who believe in codifying net neutrality, but what doesn't make sense is this legislation," said Sen. John Thune (R-SD) in the session's opening. He, among other Republicans, denounced Democrats for politicizing the issue, continuing: "Why aren't we debating a bipartisan bill instead of a partisan solution? " Democrats are happy to create bipartisan legislation, Schumer said, but it will take awhile -- the Resolution of Disapproval is a protective step in the meantime. It would halt the removal of regulations passed in 2015 to prevent internet service providers from blocking or throttling access to any site on the web.