Net Neutrality Resolution Expected To Pass Senate, But Still Has An Uphill Battle

Carolyn KasterAP Images

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on a resolution bringing back net neutrality regulations at 3 p.m. Eastern time today, although it is unlikely that the U.S. House will take up the measure before the end of this term, or win approval from President Trump, should it clear both chambers.

In an open meeting that was interrupted by a bomb threat on December 14, 2017, the Republican majority on the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality in an order called “Restoring Internet Freedom.” The regulation is scheduled to officially end on June 11.

Deadline Hollywood provided this background on the opposition to the FCC’s 2017 action that repealed net neutrality.

“Opponents of the [repeal], including several leading tech companies and the two Democratic FCC commissioners, say the rollback will enable gatekeepers such as Comcast and Verizon to create Internet fast lanes, disrupting free expression. Regardless of today’s final vote, the rollback could be decided via pending legal challenges in federal court.”

In general, federal courts tend to give deference to rulings from the administrative agencies.

Moreover, despite all the hoopla, net neutrality was only on the books for two years as the Obama administration was drawing to a close.

In a party-line vote on February 26, 2015, with the Democrats holding the majority at the time, the FCC voted 3-2 in favor of a complicated 300-plus-page set of regulations that reclassifies internet service providers as so-called common carriers or public utilities, like old-time phone companies, thereby making them subject to federal government regulation. The FCC derived its regulatory authority to do so from Title II of the vintage Communications Act of 1934.

Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai reviously made it clear that Obama-era rules that he considered interfering with free-market innovation and competition were on the chopping block.

When it comes to the internet, Pai has stated repeatedly that he wants to reintroduce to the so-called light-touch regulatory regime that was in effect from the Bill Clinton administration up until February, 2015. The net neutrality rollback returned jurisdiction over ISPs to the Federal Trade Commission.

Ajit Pai, along with others who share his deregulatory philosophy, has also criticized the “Big Social” platforms for disfavoring content neutrality while at the same time advocating net neutrality.

When net neutrality was repealed, the Washington Post summarized the issues in the net neutrality debate.

“Consumer advocates fear that those freedoms could be curtailed in a world where Internet providers are legally permitted to give preferential treatment to sites they own or share commercial relationships with, and to discriminate against apps they do not like. Internet providers vigorously contest that prediction. They argue there is no financial incentive to penalize specific apps or services, that giving some sites the option of faster service could in fact benefit consumers, and that the new rules allow the Federal Trade Commission to sue carriers that act anti-competitive.”

To some degree, the debate over restoring net neutrality may come down to who is best situated and/or equipped to take the lead in internet operations: the government or the private sector?

Check back with the Inquisitr for an update on the Senate vote.

Update: With support from most of the Democrats, the Senate voted 52-47 to reverse the net neutrality repeal, but as explained above, the action is ceremonial at this point.