The United States Senate on Wednesday voted in favor of reversing the Federal Communications Commission’s recent order to end net neutrality protection in a narrow 52-to-47 victory. In order for bill to pass the Senate, a simple majority was needed, but 50 senators had already declared support for the preservation of net neutrality prior to Wednesday’s vote. Senate Democrats used the powers granted to the legislative branch under the Congressional Review Act to potentially overturn regulations created by federal agencies, like the FCC’s decision to end requirements for net neutrality.
All 49 Democrats in the Senate voted in favor of the bill, along with Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, John Kennedy of Louisiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The bill is now headed to the House of Representatives, where Democrats must convince at least 25 Republicans to cross the aisle in a similar simple majority vote. Democrats argue that the net neutrality regulations would create an open internet, as it prevents internet service providers (ISP) from discriminating against certain types of web traffic. Many Republicans consider these requirements burdensome for internet providers, and that competition in an open market will allow industry players to self-govern.
In the House of Representatives, the bill faces a tougher uphill battle. In order for House Democrats to use the Congressional Review Act, they must collect signatures from a full majority of the House — the Senate only required 30 signatures — just to bring the issue up for vote. If it’s passed by the House after a vote, it needs to be signed by President Donald Trump to be enacted into law. If the measure is ultimately unsuccessful, the FCC’s repeal of the 2015 Open Internet Order would take effect starting June 11, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
Prior to the Senate vote, lobbyists for cable companies, telecoms, and mobile phone companies stated that legislation is unnecessary, and that internet service providers will self-regulate within the industry, a point that Democrats argued was false, citing the industry’s recent practices of throttling and data prioritization. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts argued that “net neutrality is the free speech issue of our time,” according to Ars Technica.
One of the reasons why the FCC decided to end its net neutrality protection is because the agency believes that its authority extends only in the regulation of broadband networks, whereas websites and services are under the domain of the Federal Trade Commission. Republicans used this talking point to argue that ISPs shouldn’t be forced to operate under different rules than websites in their support for ending net neutrality protections.