Politicians who support a free and open internet — one that’s best for consumers, not major media or internet service providing companies — will put on a defiant face Wednesday in the U.S. Senate, but anyone hopeful for a resurrection of net neutrality shouldn’t get too excited just yet. Here’s why.
The Senate Will Review the FCC Vote
Today, a group of Democratic Senators and Republican Maine Senator Susan Collins will officially put forth a “resolution of disapproval” on the FCC’s decision to kill net neutrality back in December. The U.S. Senate will have until June 12 to hold an official vote on the matter and the numbers look good for net neutrality advocates.
Of the 100 U.S. Senators, 49 vote with the Democratic Caucus. If you add in Collins of Maine, that’s 50. Because Republican Senator John McCain won’t be able to vote — he’s battling brain cancer in Arizona — pro-net neutrality senators appear to have the votes needed: 50 for restoring net neutrality, presumably 49 against, and one abstention (McCain). But don’t start the party yet…
What Happens If the Senate Votes to Restore Net Neutrality?
If the resolution passes, it will then go to the House of Representatives, where it faces an uphill battle not nearly as easy as the one in the Senate.
The Washington Post reports that the House is working on its own net neutrality bill to “permanently address this issue.” So it appears unlikely that leaders in the House will even bring the Senate bill up for a vote. And if the Congressional Review Act bill is brought to a vote, it may not likely pass because of political ratio: 236 Republicans and 193 Democrats. Even if it passes there, it will go to President Donald Trump, who has shown no indication he’ll favor consumers over the interests of large corporations.
Even if Net Neutrality Isn’t Brought Back to Life…
When it is put to a vote in the Senate in the next few weeks, every U.S. Senator will be forced to take a stand on this politically dangerous issue. (Activists like those at Battle for the Net have put together a guide to legislators who have remained quiet about net neutrality.)
Why Net Neutrality is So Politically Dangerous
The issue of net neutrality is so dangerous for politicians — primarily Republicans — because polls show voters largely support net neutrality, but major corporations that would benefit from no net neutrality also donate millions of dollars to lawmakers.
Staying quiet is the best way to stay in office for politicians who appreciate political donations from ISPs but want to present themselves as true representative of the people to their constituents. The least a vote on net neutrality can do is expose lawmakers as being loyal to political donors instead of voters, mere months ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
How Net Neutrality Came Back from the Dead
On April 30, Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey shared the news on Twitter that he received the 30 signatures required to activate the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to vote on federal regulations. “We have the signatures. On May 9th, we officially file the petition to force a vote on the Senate floor to save #NetNeutrality.”
For his part, Markey is holding an “AMA” on Reddit’s r/politics at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Wednesday to answer questions about the effort to restore net neutrality in the Senate. Reddit is one of several major technology companies that are calling for a restoration of net neutrality.