USAToday reports that in a narrow 52 to 47 vote, the US Senate was able to place a temporary obstacle in the Right’s path to net neutrality dissolution. Senators voted mostly along party lines, but three Republicans—Susan Collins of Maine, John Kennedy of Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—voted on the Democratic side to keep internet providers from blocking or slowing users’ access to certain websites and charging more for faster delivery of some content.
Most Republicans see net neutrality as an example of unfair government over regulation that the Democrats are using to fire up voters before midterm elections in the fall. “This isn’t about serious legislating,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. “It’s about political theatre.”
But Democrats are actually taking the issue seriously, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY. emphasizing what is at stake with the elimination of net neutrality, saying “This is our chance – our best chance – to make sure the internet stays accessible and affordable for all Americans.” The internet is a necessary tool for anyone looking to move up the capitalist ladder, and if the internet becomes engineered to cater to the wealthier class, lower-income families could get left behind.
Without net neutrality, ISPs can throttle services and gouge prices which would end up causing consumers to pay higher prices for slower service and could limit or completely stop access to their favorite websites and apps. ISPs have promised not to betray consumer trust in this way, but it would only take a few small alterations to the fine print in the company’s Terms & Conditions to take full control of the consumer’s experience in an unregulated internet.
The Obama Era FCC, led by chairman Tom Wheeler, enacted the net neutrality rules in 2015 to prevent internet service providers from blocking or throttling legal content that users sought to access and from charging users higher fees for providing faster delivery of some content. Ajit Pai, the new chairman appointed by Donald Trump, led the FCC to a 3-2 vote in favor of repealing these regulations.
Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, did not take this as a defeat, and quickly forced a vote on the measure under the Congressional Review Act. To make the vote happen they needed 30 votes, and all 49 Democrats voted in favor. This is in no way a sure victory for those in favor of net neutrality. The House still needs 218 votes to stop the repeal, which will be much more difficult to rustle up than the Senate’s 51, and even if it does pass in Congress, the President would have to sign his approval as well, and he has expressed violent opposition to net neutrality. The fight against the repeal could end up being a state legal issue as well, with attorneys general from 23 different states filing a lawsuit against the FCC.