Senate Approves First Step In Uphill Effort To Restore Net Neutrality

Today the Senate voted 52 to 47 to reverse the FCC’s attack on net neutrality, setting up a tougher showdown in the House.

As noted previously, net neutrality advocates managed to convince Congress to try and use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to reverse the FCC’s misleadingly-named “Restoring Internet Freedom Order.”

That order, approved by a 3-2 FCC vote last December, not only kills net neutrality (as of June 11), but eliminates much of the FCC’s authority to police monopoly ISPs. Since many still don’t seem to understand this, it’s worth reiterating that the attack on net neutrality is just one part of a much broader plan to severely hamstring FTC, FCC, and state oversight of giant broadband monopolies that face little to no organic market competition.

Today’s hearing before the Senate included all of the favorite hits culled from a decade of net neutrality debates, including ISP-loyal lawmakers like John Thune repeating the entirely false claim that net neutrality rules somehow devastated sector investment (SEC filings, earnings reports, and countless CEO statements disprove this). Claims that U.S. net neutrality rules were “heavy handed government regulation of the internet” were also frequently repeated (that’s also not true, and the U.S. rules are arguably modest by international standards).

Net neutrality activists had been trying to secure additional Senate votes for months, something made arguably difficult by ISP lobbyist success at stupidly framing net neutrality as a partisan issue, despite widespread bipartisan support. But activists managed to get three key Republicans to join their ranks: Maine Senator Susan Collins, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Louisiana Senator John Kennedy. Kennedy’s yes vote was a notable surprise, given he’d been supporting ISP efforts to pass a bogus net neutrality law with an eye toward pre-empting tougher state or federal rules.

But at the last moment he came along for the ride, his justification being notably amusing:

Asked Kennedy why he joined Democrats in voting to maintain #NetNeutrality rules. Here’s what he said:

— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) May 16, 2018

From here, the fight gets notably more difficult. The House also has to vote in favor of the CRA reversal, a tall order given the large number of breathleesly-loyal telecom industry House allies like Marsha Blackburn. And should it pass the House, it also needs to avoid a veto by President Trump. Activists hope to appeal to Trump’s tendency to float wherever the populist winds may lead, but that’s certainly still no sure thing, in part because there’s zero evidence the President has any idea what net neutrality is.

That said, even if the effort fails, it should do a wonderful job clearly illustrating who you should avoid voting for in the midterms and thereafter — especially if having a healthy, open and competitive internet is something that’s important to you.

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