In December of last year, the FCC led by Ajit Pai voted to end net neutrality, a regulation in place that prevents internet providers from prioritizing content on the internet for faster speeds or data access. Today, the Senate voted to reinstate those protections in a 52-47 vote.
President Trump made eliminating net neutrality a priority when he selected Ajit Pai as FCC chairman, but has long been an opponent of the regulation. Congress, however, is empowered to codify those Title II protections to prevent ISPs from throttling or blocking content. While the FCC voted to repeal those regulations in December, red tape prevented the change from going into effect for a number of months, until Pai confirmed that they would start applying on June 11.
The vote has been split on party lines with Democrats voting to keep the Obama-era protections in place and the majority of Republicans voting to let the repeal go through. Under the Congressional Review Act, the Democrats were able to call a vote to examine and vote on regulations by federal agencies under an expedited process, meaning it allowed the Senate to deny repeals with a simple majority.
With Republican senator John McCain of Arizona currently hospitalized, only a single Republican needed to break ranks to beat the repeal. Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Joe Kennedy all stepped away from the Republican position and voted with the Democrats to pass the resolution. The CRA was used by the Republicans last year to repeal an Obama-era FCC rule that prevented broadband providers from selling customer data, but is not used often otherwise.
The largely symbolic vote is just the first step in the net neutrality fight and is explicitly intended to get the subject on voters’ minds to pressure their representatives for the far more important House of Representatives vote which has not been scheduled and might not be without voter pressure. Net neutrality proponents would need to get the signatures of a majority of the House to use the CRA, convince every single Democrat to vote to retain the protections, which is not yet true, and also flip 22 Republicans. After all that, the legislation would have to be signed by President Trump, who is on record as disliking network neutrality legislation.
The only way this moves forward is if proponents push forward. If you’re curious how network neutrality would affect gaming, Elise wrote up a world without network neutrality here.
The fight for the internet should not be along party lines and shouldn’t be a partisan issue. If you use the internet, network neutrality should be something you care about and research heavily.