Senate Votes to Save Net Neutrality, but Fate Seems Sealed

Carolyn Kaster/AP/REX/Shutterstock
May 16, 2018
Updated 4mo ago

By Alisha Haridasani

In a last-ditch effort to preserve unfettered access to online content, the Senate voted Wednesday to override the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to scrap net neutrality rules.

All of the Democrats and three Republican Senators voted in favor of the resolution, which was proposed by Senator Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts.

"Republicans will rue the day they voted against middle class families, they will rue the day when they voted against the young people who are so familiar with the internet and you can be sure that we Democrats will remind the people of this vote over and over again," said Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, who has his eye on the midterm elections in November.

The resolution heads to the House, where it faces stronger opposition. Only 161 Representatives have publicly indicated that they would vote in favor of the resolution, 57 short of a majority.

There is still a chance that lawmakers who want to preserve net neutrality could convince more of their colleagues to join them because the issue resonates widely with voters, said Andrew Wyrich, a politics staff writer at The Daily Dot. A number of polls show strong support ー among Democrats and Republicans ー for maintaining net neutrality.

"A lot of people didn't think that it would happen in the Senate so I think anything can happen," said Wyrich.

Net neutrality rules were put in place by the Obama administration in 2015, ensuring that internet service providers give equal access to all content online, regardless of who produces it or where it comes from. The F.C.C. decided in December to abandon the rules, and they officially expired last month.

Supporters of net neutrality, including the tech companies Amazon, Google, Netflix, and Facebook, have said that stripping away these rules would give internet service providers the power to charge some websites or services more for speedier access. The chairman of the F.C.C., Ajit Pai, who has been a vocal critic of net neutrality, has said the rules hurt the companies that build the internet's infrastructure, and stifle innovation and limit investment.

“It’s going to hurt the little guy,” said Representative Jim Langevin, a Democrat from Rhode Island. Net neutrality allows “small entrepreneurs to have the same amount of access that big companies do,” he said.

Though a majority of Americans support net neutrality, Pai, the F.C.C. chairman, has said the rules were "heavy-handed."

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