Late last year, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) voted to undo the net neutrality rules put in place during the Obama administration. The US Senate has now voted in favor of a resolution that would overturn the FCC vote and keep net neutrality in place. However, the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution still has a long way to go before it becomes law.
After gaining enough support to force a vote, every member of the Senate’s Democratic caucus voted in favor of preserving net neutrality. They were joined by three Republican Senators: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John Kennedy. The CRA passed the upper chamber 52 to 47 (Senator McCain was not present for the vote).
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has made it his mission to overturn the net neutrality regulations, which classify ISPs as common carriers. That means they are not permitted to block or throttle lawful internet traffic. It also prevents ISPs from offering paid prioritization — the so-called fast lanes that would allow certain sites and services to perform better than others. Companies like Comcast and Verizon have pushed hard to toss all that out. Currently, the repeal will go into effect on June 11, unless Congress acts to stop it. This vote is a good first step, but none of the others are a likely to happen.
Now that the CRA has passed the Senate, it goes to the House for a vote. The Senate only has a slim Republican majority, but the GOP controls the lower house by more than 40 seats (235 to 193). If the CRA is even allowed to come to a vote, it’s unlikely it would pass. Should several dozen Republicans defect to pass it, the CRA would then go to the President for his signature. Trump has expressed his dislike for net neutrality on numerous occasions, so he’d probably veto it. Congress is far short of the votes needed to override a presidential veto on the CRA.
ISPs are already making plans that assume net neutrality will die next month. For example, AT&T is already talking about how it wants to implement paid prioritization. Everyone is using the same talking points, too. They’re adamantly against “blocking” and “throttling,” but they love the idea of charging companies more for preferred access to their subscribers. ISPs often cite remote surgery or self-driving cars as services that could need paid prioritization, but I bet they also really want to charge Netflix for sending all that video traffic.