US Senate backs effort to restore 'net neutrality' rules

REUTERS

The net neutrality rules, approved by the same organization two years earlier, prohibited internet service providers - such as Comcast and Verizon - from speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps.

47 of the Senate Republicans voted to keep FCC's decision in place.

There is not much hope that the resolution will pass the House of Representatives, as Republicans there outnumber Democrates considerably.

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.

Lobbyists tried to convince senators that net neutrality rules aren't needed "because ISPs will self-regulate", and that blocking, throttling and paid prioritization are just hypothetical harms, Markey said. Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as well as three Republicans - Susan Collins of Maine, John Kennedy of Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. "Even then, any such resolution would also need to bear the signature of President Trump, so we can safely say this is the beginning of the end for a free and open Internet".

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 previous year, overturning other FCC rules that implemented better privacy protection for internet users.

The repeal is scheduled to take effect June 11. Telecommunications companies oppose the regulations.

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Democrats used the Congressional Review Act to force a vote - a law that allows Congress to repeal agency rules and regulations on a simple majority vote, instead of a 60-vote threshold needed to break procedural hurdles on most legislation, the kinds of traditional roadblocks where Senate leadership could typically hold up such a proposal.

In its annual report filed in January, Netflix said the repeal of net neutrality, and the possibility that other "favorable laws" may change, could result in "discriminatory or anti-competitive practices that could impede our growth, cause us to incur additional expense or otherwise negatively affect our business". "We shouldn't do that with the internet either".

"This is our chance, our best chance to make sure the internet stays accessible and affordable to all Americans", said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from NY.

Although the FCC exempted Internet service providers from many aspects of that tougher oversight, such as rate regulation, opponents of the rules said the decision opened the door to onerous federal regulation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday that the solution was for lawmakers to draft Net neutrality legislation "that would safeguard consumers but still prevent regulators from stifling innovation".

Information for this article was contributed by Frank E. Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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