The United States Senate today voted to repeal the Federal Communication Commission’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” order, which was enacted last December and reverses Obama-era Net Neutrality rules. Today’s decision ended with a vote of 52-47 in favor of restoring Net Neutrality protections, with supporters totaling all 47 Democratic Senators, two independents, and three Republican Senators.
The Senate Democrats used the Congressional Review Act to call for the vote to halt Net Neutrality’s repeal. The law gives Congress 60 days to review and potentially reverse regulations passed by a federal agency, in this case the FCC.
Under the act, the decision will now move onto the House of Representatives, where it’s expected to not make it past the Republican-majority House. If the measure ultimately makes it to President Trump’s desk, it’s likewise believed that he wouldn’t back the decision to go against a regulation created by his own FCC chairman Ajit Pai.
Net Neutrality has been an increasingly heated debate since momentum gathered in the Republican-controlled FCC last fall, predicting the repeal of the rules that eventually came in December. If the new efforts fail, Net Neutrality rules will officially end in the U.S. in less than a month, on June 11, 2018.
The reversal of Net Neutrality protections classifies internet service providers as “information service” providers, as they were prior to the advent of Net Neutrality in 2015. While supporters of the rollback describe the move as a return to a less-regulated internet, opponents fear that ISPs will be able to slow down internet speeds — or block access completely — to any website they see as a competitor.
Some ISPs have come out stating they would not slow down a user’s internet in any way, including AT&T. In January, the carrier pledged a commitment “to an open internet” in an open letter written by CEO Randall Stephenson. The letter explained that AT&T has not and does not plan to block websites, censor online content, or throttle, discriminate, and degrade network performance based on a website’s contents, although Stephenson didn’t mention some topics of concern for Net Neutrality supporters like online fast lanes and “paid prioritization.”
Apple’s comment on the topic last year stated that the Net Neutrality repeal could “fundamentally alter the internet as we know it,” and if it passed it would be put in place to the detriment of consumers, competition, and innovation. Around the same time last August, the FCC received a record-breaking 22 million comments from the public who voiced their opinions on the controversial issue in the months leading up to the December vote.
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