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Senate Democrats Push Net Neutrality Vote to Wednesday

— May 15, 2018

Senate Democrats will force a vote Wednesday to repeal the Trump administration’s changes to net neutrality rules.

The measure, writes CNN, is backed by tall 49 of the Democratic Party’s senators. Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) is expected to defect. Analysts believe the effort will pass through the Senate but are skeptical of its prospects further along the legislative line.

Even if the accord were to make it out of the House unscathed, President Donald Trump is unlikely to sign off on the repeal. Trump’s views on net neutrality have been consistently negative – the commander-in-chief believes that controls to preserve the Internet’s integrity will somehow lead to the fall of conservative media.

“Obama’s attack on the Internet,” said Trump in 2014, “is another top-down power grab.

“Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media,” he Tweeted, referencing the government’s decision to place controls on telecommunications companies and internet service providers.

Pushed through the Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission last April, the changes, which have yet to implemented, give internet service providers more power to gather customer data and manipulate connection speeds.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon executive, launched the agency’s plan to roll back Obama-era net neutrality regulations. Image via Flickr/user: Gage Skidmore. (CCA-BY-2.0).

Democrats hoping to reinstate net neutrality say that the new rules give telecommunications companies too much leeway. They, along with most net neutrality advocates, believe less regulation encourages companies like Comcast to throttle speeds for certain websites while offering premium prices for faster connections.

“The Internet should be kept free and open like our highways, accessible and affordable to every American, regardless of ability to pay,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “The repeal of net neutrality is not only a blow to the average consumer, but it is a blow to public schools, rural Americans, communities of color and small businesses. A vote against this resolution will be a vote to protect large corporations and special interests, leaving the American public to pay the price.”

Schumer and his colleagues are employing the Congressional Review ACT (CRA) to repeal the FCC’s changes. A CRA, unlike traditional bills and other measures, is intended only to reverse the rules of federal agencies. It requires a simple majority vote rather than the 60 votes usually needed to pass a bill through the Senate.

Republicans – many of whom claim to support the basic principles of net neutrality – defend the decision of the Federal Communications Commission and its chairman, Ajit Pai, to hand the reins to telecommunications companies. According to CNN, conservative lawmakers believe the changes restored the “light touch” of the government. Even if Republicans might support net neutrality, their leaders say they’d rather codify if through Congress than leave the decision to a government agency like the FCC.

“But instead of moving forward with that approach with Republicans to draft such legislation, the Democratic leadership decided to try to score political points by pushing a resolution to undo the FCC’s decision, even though undoing will do nothing to provide a permanent solution on net neutrality,” said South Dakota Sen. John Thune (R).

A CNN Republican source suggested that, after the CRA stalls in the House, Democrats may begin collaborating with their right-wing counterparts to draft a practical bill codifying net neutrality.


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