The United States Senate voted today in favor of reinstating Net Neutrality regulations, and essentially voting against the recent repeal of those regulations by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under current chairperson, Ajit Pai. The vote, which was largely led by Democrats is now being seen as a win by supporters of net neutrality, although in reality it remains to be seen as to how much it will impact on the current situation.
The current vote was brought forward through the use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) which primarily acts to voice a clear and loud disapproval of actions and rules set out by a federal agency, in this case, the FCC, by way of a majority vote. This is largely the extent to its immediate benefit in this instance, however, as the issue will now be raised, and also have to be voted on in much the same way by the House of Representatives. From then on, it would also need to then be approved by President Donald Trump. Providing it does make it passed those additional hurdles it would become more concrete and likely put an end to the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order. Though, the House in itself is expected to prove the most immediate issue due to its current Republican influence. For example, the Senate vote today ended with 52 voting in favor compared to the 47 against, with one vote — John McCain (R-AZ) — not cast. Of those 52 ‘yes’ votes, 47 of them came from Democrat Senators, two from independents and the additional three votes from Republican Senators: Susan Collins (R-ME), John Kennedy (R-LA), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). A breakdown of votes which does highlight how this is an issue that divides at the party level. With the Republicans in control of the House the suggestion is the vote is unlikely to be as successful the next time around.
Much of the debate on the topic of net neutrality focuses on who should be responsible for regulating Internet service providers (ISPs). Those in favor of net neutrality argue ISPs need to be regulated by the likes of the FCC, and the best way to do so is to classify ISPs as ‘common carriers’ under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Those against this type of classification prefer ISPs to encounter a more ‘light touch’ form of regulation where they are expected to voluntarily abide by certain behaviors, but are not compelled to do so. In the case of ISPs, these behaviors are often summed up as blocking content, throttling users, and/or engaging in paid prioritization. At present, the current FCC repeal is due to take effect on June 11, 2018.