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U.S. senate passes the bill in bid to retain net neutrality

17 May 2018

All Senate Democrats and three Republicans, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and John Kennedy, successfully brought the issue to the floor and voted to overturn it with a final tally of 52-47.

It has been just over five months since the FCC in the United States voted to dismantle Obama-era net neutrality rules, with three out of five commissioners involved choosing to end the regulation.

Democrats were undeterred. They saw their effort as something that will energize young voters who value unfettered access to the internet. "This is a defining vote".

Before the vote, Senator Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, urged fellow senators to disregard the "armies of lobbyists marching the halls of Congress on behalf of big internet service providers".

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After the vote, a group of Democratic lawmakers from the House and Senate had a news conference praising the passage of the measure in the Senate. But they wanted to also ensure that regulatory efforts didn't get in the way of innovation and quickly evolving internet services.

Political commentators say that it's highly unlikely Trump will sign the resolution, because the White House backed the FCC ruling and he also signed a Congressional Review Act past year, overturning other FCC rules that implemented better privacy protection for internet users. "We shouldn't do that with the internet either". But the FCC's move has stirred fears among consumer advocates that cable and phone giants will be free to block access to services they don't like or set up "fast lanes" for preferred services - in turn, relegating everyone else to "slow lanes". "However, net neutrality regulations are the wrong approach".

Net Neutrality protesters in Philadelphia. Other businesses have echoed this statement.

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency may be decentralized but people buy and sell them on exchanges hosted by internet service providers.

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Similarly, Snapchat parent Snap said in February that adopting laws that "adversely affect the growth, popularity, or use of the internet, including laws governing internet neutrality, could decrease the demand for our products and increase our cost of doing business". "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".

Senate supporters of the net neutrality rules put forward the legislation under the Congressional Review Act, which permits Congress to revisit decisions by administrative agencies within a certain window of their approval.

Republican 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. "It's disappointing that Senate Democrats forced this resolution through by a narrow margin". Another risk of throwing out net neutrality protections is that consumers could face the Death of Nickels and Dimes as charge add-ons to stream video, game or access social media, experts warn.

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U.S. senate passes the bill in bid to retain net neutrality