A "No" Vote on Net Neutrality Could Hurt Republicans in November

A lot of Americans hate the FCC right now, and the midterms are coming.

Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

Democrats, led by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, are forcing a vote in the Senate aimed at blocking the FCC’s plan to repeal net neutrality protections that allow consumers equal access to all internet content.

The plan — amusingly named the “Restoring Internet Freedom order” — was pushed by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and approved by a Republican-controlled FCC on December 14.

But Democratic senators, who have been vocally opposed to the plan since the get-go, have now organized the 30 votes (more, in fact) that are needed in order to call a vote on whether Congress should step in and stop the FCC’s new plan.

Now for the bad news for advocates for net neutrality: It’s unlikely that the Dems will get enough votes to actually block the FCC’s new regulations from moving forward; they would need a majority of votes in both Houses, as well as President Donald Trump’s signature. Despite its unlikelihood, it’s still a clever strategy, because by bringing the matter to a vote, they’ll be forcing Republicans to go on record about their stance on net neutrality.

Although a few members of the GOP have spoken out about a plan that could further monetize our access to the internet, on the whole, the party has remained silent and supportive of the Republican-majority FCC. Their constituents, not so much.

The concept of “net neutrality” is colloquial term that’s used to describe a version of the internet where internet service providers (ISPs) don’t have control of the content users interact with online, nor can they provide different levels of access and speeds tied to different pay rates. This video breaks it down:

It’s a rare concept that has actually united Americans of different political affinities, for a host of different reasons. For left-leaning voters, net neutrality means that the largest internet service providers, like Verizon or Comcast can’t control the flow of information for profit. For right-leaning voters, the FCC’s plan could stifle free market competition, as ISPs would have the power to decide what online businesses receive higher visibility to users — depending on how much they pay for it. Although Pai has called the Restore Internet Freedom Order “light touch regulation,” in another sense it’s quite heavy-handed; it gives a lot of power to a relatively small number of powerful corporations who have a near-monopoly on the telecom industry.

Here’s the moment Pai killed net neutrality:

According to, over 1 million calls have been made to Congress imploring them to stop the FCC’s new regulations from going ahead. Over 22 million comments were submitted to the FCC’s website in 2017, although many in support of curbing internet protections turned out to be coming from bots — a problem that has forced the New York’s attorney general to announce his plan to sue the FCC.

With so much public objection to the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, it will be interesting to see if Republicans will stand up and openly support it on Capitol Hill — in a midterm election year. One Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), on Tuesday went on the record to say she would back the pro-net neutrality vote.

“Senator Collins does not support the FCC’s recent decision to repeal net neutrality rules, and she will support Senator Markey’s legislation that would overturn the FCC’s vote,” her spokeswoman, Annie Clark, said in a statement to The Hill.

“She believes that a careful, deliberative process involving experts and the public is warranted to ensure that consumers have strong protections that guarantee consumer choice, free markets and continued growth.”

Once the FCC’s rules are published in the Federal Register, Democrats will have 60 days to pursue their vote to stomp the Restoring Internet Freedom order.

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