Is Net Neutrality on the Path to Reinstatement?

Friday, 18 May, 2018

The FCC's net neutrality repeal gave broadband providers extraordinary new powers to block websites, throttle services and play favorites when it comes to online content.

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.

On May 16, the Senate voted 52-47 in favor of overturning the FCC's net neutrality ruling.

Fox Business and One American News Network, a decidedly pro-Trump outlet known for pushing conspiracy theories, aired full reports of the net neutrality vote. Although the bill has passed the Senate, it will also have to be passed by the House, where Republicans have a more significant majority, and then be signed into law by the President.

Democrats obviously don't have to worry about that issue, and they have been able to make net-neutrality something of a platform. Earlier this year, a coalition of 23 attorneys general, including Connecticut's Attorney General George Jepsen sued to stop the rollback of net neutrality.

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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 a year ago, overturning other FCC rules that implemented better privacy protection for internet users. They included Sen. Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, who said Pai showed contempt for the public by not heeding public opinion that favours stronger net neutrality rules. Many have subsidiaries or affiliated companies that also produce vast amounts of programming, putting them in position to control internet access and download speeds in ways that enhance the value of their own products. So it's no surprise they voted to reject Ajit Pai's decision to kill the internet as we know it. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, where its fate is unclear. "And it will continue to be free and open once the Restoring Internet Freedom Order takes effect on June 11", he asserted.

Sen. Ed Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who introduced Wednesday's resolution, said during debate on the Senate floor that the measure would guarantee "no slowing down certain websites, no blocking websites, and no charging you more to exercise your 21st century right to access the Internet".

It's all up in the air at the moment, and frankly, net-neutrality was probably a good thing. Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, and ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that oversees the FCC. "I'll keep raising a ruckus to support net neutrality and I hope others will too", she said, looking directly into the camera.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) denounced the measure as a grandstanding manoeuvre that gets in the way of a bipartisan net neutrality remedy.