(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 The FCC in December repealed rules set under Democratic President Barack Obama that barred internet service providers from blocking or slowing access to content or charging consumers more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.
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.