The US Senate has voted to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Restoring Internet Freedom Order which replaced previous net neutrality legislation, passing a bill that has little chance of advancing in the House but offers net neutrality supporters and Democrats a political rallying point for the midterm elections.
Democrats forced the May 16th vote using an obscure legislative tool known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Such bills allow Congress, with a majority vote in each chamber and the president’s signature, to overturn recent agency moves.
Three Republicans – Senators Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and John Kennedy (La.) – joined the 49 Senate Democrats to pass the bill 52-47.
Opponents contend that without the net neutrality regulations, which require Internet Service Providers to treat all web traffic equally, companies such as Verizon and Comcast will be free to discriminate against certain content or boost their partner websites.
The bill will have a much harder time in the House of Representatives, where Democrats would need 25 Republicans to switch sides in order to bring it up for a vote.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) denounced the measure as a grandstanding manoeuvre that gets in the way of a bipartisan net neutrality remedy.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said it was “disappointing” that Senate Democrats forced the resolution through by a narrow margin. “But ultimately, I’m confident that their effort to reinstate heavy-handed government regulation of the Internet will fail. The Internet was free and open before 2015, when the prior FCC buckled to political pressure from the White House and imposed utility-style regulation on the Internet. And it will continue to be free and open once the Restoring Internet Freedom Order takes effect on June 11,” he asserted.
“Moreover, contrary to the scare tactics employed by Senate Democrats, which earned three Pinocchios from the Washington Post’s fact-checker, our light-touch approach will deliver better, faster, and cheaper Internet access and more broadband competition to the American people—something that millions of consumers desperately want and something that should be a top priority. The prior Administration’s regulatory overreach took us in the opposite direction, reducing investment in broadband networks and particularly harming small Internet service providers in rural and lower-income areas. Our approach will help promote digital opportunity—that is, making high-speed Internet access available to every single American so that they can be participants in, rather than spectators of, our digital economy,” he concluded.