By Ted Barrett and Daniella Diaz
WASHINGTON– The Senate voted Wednesday to begin debate on repealing changes to net neutrality rules that were recently adopted by the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission.
The measure, which is backed by all 49 Democrats and Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, is expected to pass the full Senate later Wednesday and then be sent to the GOP-led House, where it’ll likely go nowhere — and President Donald Trump is unlikely to back it.
Republican Sens. John Kennedy of Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also voted “yes” to debate the measure, which was unexpected.
“I want to listen to the debate,” Kennedy told reporters after his vote. “I don’t know what I’m going to do (on net neutrality). I’m still studying it. I’ve got until 3 o’ clock. I’m going back to my office to listen to them on television.”
Democrats are using the Congressional Review Act to force a vote — a law that allows Congress to repeal agency rules and regulations on a simple majority vote, instead of a 60-vote threshold needed to break procedural hurdles on most legislation, the kinds of traditional roadblocks where Senate leadership could typically hold up such a proposal.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke after the vote, arguing that “at stake is the future of the Internet.”
“That fundamental equality of access is what has made the internet so dynamic,” he said on the Senate floor. “Net neutrality protected everyone … that era, the era of an open Internet, will unfortunately soon come to an end.”
He continued: “The Democratic position is very simple. Let’s treat the internet like the public good that it is.”
The FCC voted in December to repeal Obama-era protections. The net neutrality rules, approved by the same organization two years earlier, prohibited Internet service providers — such as Comcast and Verizon — from speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps.
Democrats argue the new FCC rules give too much power to Internet service providers, which they fear will throttle down speeds for some websites and services while ramping it up for others who pay more.
Schumer said in an earlier statement, “The repeal of net neutrality is not only a blow to the average consumer, but it is a blow to public schools, rural Americans, communities of color and small businesses. A vote against this resolution will be a vote to protect large corporations and special interests, leaving the American public to pay the price.”
While Democrats recognize they are unlikely to reverse the FCC’s rule, they see the issue as a key policy desire that energizes their base voters, a top priority ahead of the midterm elections.
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