Defying Republicans, Senate Democrats schedule vote to save net neutrality

The US Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday, May 16 on whether to reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality rules.

Republican senators were hoping to avoid the vote, but Democrats are using a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to force the full Senate to vote. The CRA resolution would nullify the FCC’s December 2017 vote to deregulate broadband and kill net neutrality rules, and prevent the FCC from taking similar actions in the future.

“By passing my CRA resolution to put net neutrality back on the books, we can send a clear message to American families that we support them, not the special interest agenda of President Trump and his broadband baron allies,” Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said in an announcement today.

Republicans are pushing weaker broadband regulations and have tried to discourage Democrats from pursuing the CRA vote. “Rather than voting for 21st Century rules to protect the Internet, we’ll be taking a show vote on whether to look backwards and re-apply rules meant for the old Ma’ Bell phone system to the modern Internet,” US Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) wrote last week.

Battle on multiple fronts

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced last week that his repeal of net neutrality rules will take effect on June 11.

There are 50 senators, including one Republican, who have pledged to vote to prevent the net neutrality repeal. That may be enough to get the resolution through the Senate Wednesday because of the cancer-related absence of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Democrats face longer odds in the House, where Republicans hold a 236-193 majority. President Trump could veto the resolution if it makes it through both chambers of Congress.

Congress isn’t the only obstacle in the way of Pai’s net neutrality repeal. The FCC must defend the repeal in court against a lawsuit filed by about three dozen entities, including Democratic state attorneys general, consumer advocacy groups, and tech companies.

Some state governments are imposing their own net neutrality rules, and they are likely to be sued by Internet providers or broadband industry lobby groups.

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