In an extraordinary turn of event, fifty senators moved endorsed a legislative measure to override the Federal Communications Commission’s Commission’s controversial decision to repeal the net neutrality rules and deregulate the broadband industry.
Those rules, which banned Internet providers from blocking or slowing down websites, were swept away in a December vote led by Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Republicans had argued that the rules were too restrictive for the industry, while Democrats said they provided a vital consumer protection.
As noted by The Washington Post, the tally leaves supporters just one Republican vote shy of the 51 required to pass a Senate resolution aimed at restoring the FCC’s net neutrality rules.
The resolution also overturns the agency’s decision and prohibit the agency from passing similar measures in the future. It has the support of all 49 Democratic senators as well as one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
“With full caucus support, it’s clear that Democrats are committed to fighting to keep the Internet from becoming the Wild West where ISPs are free to offer premium service to only the wealthiest customers while average consumers are left with far inferior options,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of the lawmakers leading the effort, The Post reports.
When an independent agency makes a decision — such as the FCC’s net neutrality deregulation — federal lawmakers have a window of 60 legislative days to reverse the move under the Congressional Review Act. As of last Tuesday, 40 senators had signed on to the resolution to challenge the FCC under the CRA. Since then, 10 more have joined the effort.
To pass the Senate, Democrats must recruit one more Republican member to their ranks. The measure must survive the Republican-majority House and be signed by President Trump to take effect.
According to the Post, Democrats have said they plan to make net neutrality a midterm campaign issue, forcing vulnerable GOP candidates to stand with their party and adopt a position that, according to some surveys, is at odds with that of the broader public.
Opposition to the deregulation has reached new levels over the past few months. As the FCC prepared for its vote last year, the agency said it had received derogatory comments toward Pai in the issue’s electronic public docket. Pai has canceled at least two public appearances since then, including a major annual address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas over alleged death threats.