US Senate opposes FCC’s plan to end net neutrality
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 president’s signature.
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.”
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