US Senate Votes To Halt FCC’s Net Neutrality Decision

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

But will anyone care? Pointless vote will be defeated by the House of Representatives and the US President

The US Senate has voted on Wednesday on whether to reverse a decision by the Trump administration to roll back Obama-era ‘net neutrality’ rules.

On the surface the news was good for net neutrality supporters, in that the US Senate voted in favour of restoring net neutrality protection, after a number of republican senators joined forces with their democrat colleagues in the Republican controlled US Senate.

But in reality the victory is a completely hollow one, as despite the vote, it is highly unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. And if by some small miracle the legislation were to pass the House, President Donald Trump would likely veto it.

internet net neutrality (C) Peshkova - Shutterstock

Senate vote

The vote to restore net neutrality protection was heavily pushed by Democratic senators who used the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to reverse the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCCs) December decision to “roll back” Obama-era net neutrality rules.

The FCC had said that the net neutrality protection will end on 11 June.

The Democratic senators were only able to secure enough votes thanks to three Republican senators who were ultimately persuaded to vote in favour of the proposal.

They were Susan Collins (R-ME), John Kennedy (R-LA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Republican Senator John McCain was absent because of illness.

In the end, the US Senate approved the roll back by 52 votes to 47, and it will now move to the House for review, where it faces an uphill battle.

And one expert has predicted that the abolition of net neutrality will see the end of an open Internet.

“If proponents of net neutrality manage to secure a majority vote in the Senate, the chances of the resolution passing the Republican-controlled House are slim,” said Sean McGrath, online privacy expert at BestVPN.com. “Even then, any such resolution would also need to bear the signature of President Trump, so we can safely say this is the beginning of the end for a free and open Internet.”

“Make no mistake – the abolition of net neutrality will erode the democratic fabric that binds the Internet together,” said McGrath. “It will allow internet service providers and cable companies to dictate the winners and losers in the digital world and it will give a very small number of market players near-limitless power, stifling the rights of citizens that cannot afford to play by their rules.”

“As the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, said, the internet must remain a permissionless space for creativity, innovation and free expression,” said McGrath. “At BestVPN.com, we stand side by side with companies and citizens around the world in opposition to the FCC’s decision.”

Bitter opposition

Indeed, it is fair to say that the decision by the FCC, under the control of its Republican chairman Ajit Pai (appointed by President Donald Trump), to roll back the net neutrality rules has been hugely controversial.

Up to 22 US states have sued to stop the new rules from taking effect. Others such as Washington State have signed a law in direct opposition to the FCC in order to stop Internet Service Providers from blocking websites or offering fast lane Internet access to companies willing to pay.

And many in the tech industry and beyond have registered their opposition to the FCC’s stance and the belief of its chairman Pai.

Such was the fallout from the FCC decision, that Pai in January this year unexpectedly cancelled an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas because of death threats.

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