Skip to main content

The U.S. Senate voted on Wednesday in favour of keeping open-internet rules in a bid to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to repeal net-neutrality rules, but the measure is unlikely to be approved by the House of Representatives or the White House.

The 52-to-47 vote margin in the Senate was larger than expected with three Republicans – John Kennedy, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins – voting with 47 Democrats and two independents to reverse the Trump administration’s action.

Democrats used a law that allows Congress to reverse regulatory actions by a simple majority vote, but it is not clear if the U.S. House of Representatives will vote at all on the measure, while the White House has said it opposed repealing the December FCC order.

Story continues below advertisement

But many politicians are convinced the issue will help motivate younger people to vote in the 2018 congressional elections, and numerous polls show overwhelming public support for retaining the Obama-era net-neutrality rules.

The FCC in December repealed rules set by former president Barack Obama that barred internet-service providers from blocking or slowing access to content or charging consumers more for certain content.

Representative Mike Doyle, a Democrat, said he would launch an effort on Thursday to try to force a House vote and needs the backing of at least two dozen Republicans. He said Democrats would try to make it a campaign issue if Republicans will not allow a vote.

“Let’s treat the internet like the public good that it is. We don’t let water companies or phone companies discriminate against customers; we don’t restrict access to interstate highways, saying you can ride on the highway, and you can’t,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said. “We shouldn’t do that with the internet either.”

The 2015 rules were intended to ensure a free and open internet, give consumers equal access to web content and bar broadband-service providers from favouring their own material or others’.

The new December, 2017, rules require internet providers to tell consumers whether they will block or slow content or offer paid “fast lanes.”

Republican John Thune, who chairs the Senate commerce committee, said “the fact of the matter is nothing is going to change” after the new rules take effect – and will not prod people to vote. “I don’t know how that animates people to vote if their Netflix is working,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

The vote was a rare, and likely only symbolic, win for Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate and a rebuke to regulators that approved a sweeping repeal of the Obama rules.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai called the vote disappointing, but added that “ultimately, I’m confident that their effort to reinstate heavy-handed government regulation of the internet will fail.” Mr. Pai said the his approach “will deliver better, faster and cheaper internet access and more broadband competition to the American people.”

Last week, the FCC said the net-neutrality rules would expire on June 11 and that the new regulations approved in December, handing providers broad new power over how consumers can access the internet, would take effect.

The revised rules were a win for internet-service providers, whose practices faced significant government oversight and FCC investigations under the 2015 order. But the new rules are opposed by internet firms such as Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.

Comcast Corp., Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. have pledged to not block or discriminate against legal content after the net-neutrality rules expire. A group of 22 states have sued the FCC over the repeal.

AT&T said on Wednesday it backs an open internet and “actual bipartisan legislation that applies to all internet companies and guarantees neutrality, transparency, openness, non-discrimination and privacy protections for all internet users.”

Story continues below advertisement

The FCC decided in 2015 to reclassify internet-service providers as common carriers under a 1996 law. But, unlike how utilities are treated, the FCC decided not to impose rate regulations or require broadband providers to file notice of pricing plans.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter