19 May 2018

Senate votes to reinstate net neutrality — but it has a long way to go

By Jacob Kastrenakes@jake_k 
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In a 52–47 vote today, senators voted to overturn the Federal Communication Commission’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which took net neutrality rules off the books. They were able to do so using the Congressional Review Act, or CRA, which allows Congress to reverse recent decisions by government agencies. Republican control of Congress means that such a measure wouldn’t normally even make it up for a vote; but the CRA allows senators to force a vote by obtaining 30 signatures.

All 49 Democrats voted in favor, as well as Republican Senators Susan Collins, of Maine; John Kennedy, of Louisiana; and Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska.


While advocates have argued that this is a step toward reinstating net neutrality, it’s really a long-shot attempt that seems to be meant more to get the issue back on voters’ minds — and to force politicians to take a position ahead of what’s expected to be a tumultuous midterm election.

In order for net neutrality to actually be reinstated, two more things have to happen. First, the House has to use the CRA to overturn the policy as well. That’s even harder. Instead of 30 signatures, net neutrality supporters have to collect signatures from a full majority of House members. Even if they get every single Democrat on board — and they don’t have that yet — they’d still need the support of 22 Republicans. And finally, if that happened and they all voted to reverse the policy, it’d still have to get signed by President Trump, who is not a fan of the policy.

While it’s obviously an uphill battle, net neutrality advocates seem to be holding out hope that they could actually get through the House, too. There’s a degree of bipartisan agreement that something needs to be done on net neutrality. And with midterms coming up, representatives in challenging districts may be more inclined to support the popular, consumer-friendly policy. As for Trump, well, you never know exactly how he’s going to wake up each day, or so the argument goes.

In reality, this is more about setting up whatever comes next for net neutrality, likely a few years down the line. The general consensus at this point is that net neutrality is now out of the FCC’s hands, and that Congress will have to act to reinstate some of its outgoing rules. It’s not at all clear how soon that’ll happen, but forcing Congress to take a vote helps to clarify the playing field and make sure it’s something legislators are thinking about.

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