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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 The FCC in December repealed rules set under Democratic President Barack Obama that barred internet service providers from blocking or slowing access to content or charging consumers more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 votes today on rollback of net neutrality rollback


Todays the big day for the Senates big push to undo the FCCs Restoring Internet Freedom order nullifying 2015s net neutrality rules. A vote is scheduled for this afternoon on whether to repeal that order, though as of this writing the coalition is still one vote shy of making it happen. The vote is an application of the Congressional Review Act, which as you might guess from the name allows Congress to review and if necessary undo recent regulations enacted by federal agencies. Its been seldom used for decades but the current administration has been very free with it as a method of squelching rules passed in the twilight of the Obama era. Today Senate Democrats strike back with the same weapon. A simple majority is required, but right now only a single Republican Senator, Maines Susan Collins, has courageously stepped across the aisle to join the Democrat-led effort. One more would pass the bill, though it would still have to get through the House and the presidents desk, making its prognosis poor. The FCC just repealed net neutrality. What happens next? That matters little, though: until today, many senators will have been able to largely stay silent on the issue, and a vote to support this highly unpopular rule may come back to bite them come midterms. Net neutrality may very well be an issue constituencies care about, or at least thats what Democratic challengers are hoping for. On the other hand, a Democratic-led CRA is a direct, partisan attack on the administration, which has supported this FCCs actions, and would cause return to Obama-era rules, which few Republicans would relish. Will any Republican senators see the writing on the wall and flip? Or will they stick to the party and leave it to be decided by a tie-breaker vote almost certain to go in their favor? Tune in to the Senate webcast to find out; the vote should happen around 3PM Eastern, but as always in government timing is only approximate.