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Senate Votes to Preserve Net-Neutrality Rules

Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

The Senate voted Wednesday to preserve the net-neutrality rules that were repealed late last year by the Federal Communications Commission, passing a bill that has little hope of surviving the House but serves to signal Democratic opposition to the Trump administration’s regulatory rollback.

The bill, which Democrats brought to a vote through the Congressional Review Act despite majority opposition, passed largely along partisan lines, but also had the support of Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and John Kennedy of Louisiana.

Critics of the administration’s rollback of the Obama-era net-neutrality regulations, which required Internet-service providers to treat all web traffic equally, argue that it will allow large ISPs like Comcast to privilege certain content providers.

In order to pass the House, the bill would require the support of 25 Republicans, which seems unlikely given that almost the entire House GOP caucus opposes the net-neutrality regulations as an unwarranted burden on telecom companies.

“I’m disappointed but not surprised that Democrats rejected my offer to write, consider, and amend legislation in a process open to ideas from both sides of the aisle,” Senator John Thune (R., S.D.) said in a statement. “Despite this vote, I remain committed to finding a path to bipartisan protections for the internet and stand ready to work with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle when they are ready as well.”

FCC chairman Ajit Pai overturned the Obama-era regulations in December of last year, the Restoring Internet Freedom order with which he replaced them won’t go into effect until next month.

Despite the lack of support from House Republicans, Democrats felt it was important to demonstrate their opposition to the Trump administration’s deregulation ahead of the midterm elections. The bill’s passage in the Senate was intended to “send a clear message to American families that we support them, not the special interest agenda of President Trump and his broadband baron allies,” Senator Ed Markey (D., Mass.), who sponsored the Congressional Review Act resolution, told USA Today ahead of the vote.

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