In a narrow 52-47 roll call vote today, the US Senate passed a joint resolution to reverse the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) decision to roll back Obama-era net neutrality rules that have governed the Internet since 2015. The move will essentially nullify the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” published by the GOP-dominated FCC in February.
The Senate’s approval is only half of the battle, and the odds may not be in the Internet’s favor. The resolution will now move to the Republican-majority House chamber, where more than half of its 435 representatives must approve it. Then it heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature, which will move the resolution into law.
Let’s be clear here: The vote doesn’t save net neutrality just yet, but it does put a big speed bump in the road to its repeal. SR-51 is a last-ditch effort of sorts by Democrats to repeal the repeal of net neutrality from going into effect in June. Three Republicans – Senators Susan Collins of Maine, John Kennedy of Louisiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – broke from party lines in support of the resolution.
The whole shebang started back in December when the nation’s top media regulator voted to repeal rules that prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from treating certain content differently. While specifics vary from country to country, net neutrality ensures that ISPs and government-run agencies treat all legal websites equally and are accessible. Repealing net neutrality rules basically reclassifies ISPs as “information services” instead of “public utilities” – such as phone or electric services – which is currently regulated by the FCC. Under the new rule, agencies will no longer have a policy from stopping Internet providers from blocking, slowing down, or charging more for certain content as they see fit.
Wednesday’s vote might not hold a lot of gumption when it comes to upholding net neutrality, but advocates argue that it’s a step in the right direction and a move meant to get the topic back on the minds of voters. What has become clear is that regulating net neutrality is moving away from the FCC and under the watchful eyes of Congress.