17 May 2018
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
The US Senate has issued a challenge to the country’s telecoms regulator by voting in favour of net neutrality.
However, plans of the US Federal Communications Commission
(FCC) to end net neutrality , now set for
11 June, are unlikely to be derailed – as the
Senate’s move would need the support of not only
the heavily Republican House of Representatives but also
President Donald Trump himself.
All 49 Democrat senators voted against net neutrality last
night and they were supported by three rebel Republicans,
giving the motion a 52-47 majority.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai regretted the
move, saying: "Ultimately, I’m confident that
their effort to reinstate heavy-handed government regulation of
the internet will fail."
One of the Democratic party-supporting members of the FCC,
Jessica Rosenworcel, said about the vote: "Today the United
States Senate took a big step to fix the serious mess the FCC
made when it rolled back net neutrality late last year. The
FCC’s net neutrality repeal gave broadband
providers extraordinary new powers to block websites, throttle
services and play favourites when it comes to online content.
This put the FCC on the wrong side of history, the wrong side
of the law, and the wrong side of the American people."
Pai said that the Trump FCC’s "light-touch
approach will deliver better, faster, and cheaper internet
access and more broadband competition to the American people
– something that millions of consumers desperately
want and something that should be a top priority."
The Senate vote used a tactic called the Congressional Review
Act, which allows Congress to overturn moves by government
agencies. However, to be effective not only is a simple
majority needed in both houses – the first of which
was achieved last night in the Senate – but also the
Both of those conditions are possible but unlikely. A vote in
the House of Representatives would need support of 20 of the
235 Republicans as well as all 193 Democrats. That might just
happen – it’s an election year and
Republicans will be lobbied by net neutrality supporters. But
Trump’s approval is, frankly, as likely as the FCC
approving a China Mobile takeover bid for AT&T.
However, the vote gave heart to supporters of net neutrality.
Rosenworcel said: "Today’s vote is a sign that the
fight for internet freedom is far from over. I’ll
keep raising a ruckus to support net neutrality and I hope
others will too."