WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate took a stand on open internet protections yesterday, voting 52-47 to stop a recent move by the Federal Communications Commission to roll back net neutrality rules finalized under the Obama administration. A similar bill will now go to the House, where a majority would need to sign on to force a vote.
Tim Karr, senior director of strategy and communications at the group Free Press, said the Senate's action is an important step in unwinding what he called one of the most unpopular policy decisions in the history of the FCC. He pointed to a recent University of Maryland study showing 86 percent of Americans oppose the rollback. "Eighty two percent of Republicans support the net neutrality protections and oppose the FCC's recent decision to take those away," Karr said. "We're very hopeful that our members of Congress will do their jobs, which is essentially to represent the interests of the American public."
Supporters of open-internet rules warned that a rollback would allow internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon to create fast lanes for their content and slow lanes for websites that couldn't pay. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others argued that removing protections would return the internet to the same regulatory environment that helped it grow. And industry groups have claimed that the rules have blunted investment. Evan Greer, deputy director of the group Fight for the Future, disagrees and said most Americans don't want their cable companies controlling what they see and do on the internet. "The only studies that support their claims are studies that they have funded themselves," Greer said. "Independent studies all say that net neutrality protections haven't hurt a thing. They're basic principals that have been in place since the beginning of the internet."
The Senate tapped the Congressional Review Act to block the rollback, and if signed into law, it would prohibit the FCC from upending net neutrality rules in the future. While the measure faces an uncertain fate in the GOP-controlled House, Karr noted some 22 states have filed suit against the FCC to block the repeal. "We also are challenging the FCC's 2017 decision in the courts," Karr said. "So even should the resolution of disapproval ultimately fail in Congress, there are other measures that we'll be taking to restore our internet rights."
The FCC's Restoring Internet Freedom Order reversing open-internet rules is scheduled to take effect June 11.