Update, 5/16/18, 1:15pm PT: The Senate passed the disapproval. The vote fell largely along party lines, with Republicans Susan Collins, John Kennedy, and Lisa Murkowski joining Senate Democrats and Independents in rejecting the appeal. The victory for net neutrality advocates is likely fleeting, however, as the House is not expected to vote the same way.
The Senate will vote today on whether or not to repeal the latest rollback of net neutrality rules by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, through the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Congress used the CRA last year to cancel the broadband privacy framework passed by the previous FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler.
FCC Repeals Net Neutrality Rules
In December 2017, the FCC voted to repeal the net neutrality rules (the Open Internet Order) passed in 2015 by the former FCC leadership, which the D.C. Circuit Court upheld in 2016. The net neutrality rules prohibited internet service providers from blocking, slowing down, or discriminating against content online.
Democratic Senators now worry that if the net neutrality rules are repealed, this will mean more discrimination against internet startups that can’t pay for “prioritized access” to the ISPs’ customers, even though those same customers already pay the ISPs on a monthly basis for an unfiltered and neutral internet. The Senators also worry that the ISPs will block or cripple competing services.
Forcing A Net Neutrality Vote
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) announced today that their Senate Democratic colleagues, as well Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), will vote to undo FCC’s recent order to rollback net neutrality rules.
Senator Schumer said:
The internet should be kept free and open like our highways, accessible and affordable to every American, regardless of ability to pay. 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.
Senator Nelson added:
The time has come for Congress to undo the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules. Will we stand with the American public, who understand why net neutrality is vital, or will we side with those who wish to control how we use the internet? The choice should be clear – the American public should always come first.
The vote will happen at 3p.m. EST today, so this may be your last chance to call your Senators and ask them to cancel FCC’s repeal of the Open Internet Order through the CRA.
One other thing the vote will achieve, whether or not the net neutrality repeal will be undone, is to have every Senator’s vote on this issue on record, ahead of the midterm primaries and general elections, which may sway some Senators' votes.