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Senate votes to overturn repeal of net neutrality

Posted by On May 20, 2018

Senate votes to overturn repeal of net neutrality

In response to the Trump administration’s repeal of net neutrality rules in December, the US Senate this week passed a resolution overturning the repeal. The Congressional Review Act (CRA) passed the senate 52 to 47.

Late last year, the Trump administration repealed the Obama-era Open Internet Order adopted in 2015, which prohibited internet service providers like Verizon or Comcast from slowing down or blocking certain websites from charging users more to see certain content, declaring broadband an essential public utility.

Under the guidance of FCC Chair Ajit Paiâ€"appointed to the position by President Donald Trumpâ€"the commission repealed the net neutrality order by a 3-2 vote. Pai’s proposal, called Restoring Internet Freedom Order, would allow websites to pay internet service providers for preferential treatment.

However, the senate voted to overturn the FCC†™s repeal.

The CRA, which was strongly backed by U.S. Senator Jack Reed, was also supported by all 49 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus along with Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and John Kennedy (R-LA). A recent poll also showed that 83 percent of Americans do not approve of the FCC’s action to repeal net neutrality rules.

Reed said the move to overturn the repeal of net neutrality was “an important, meaningful step toward protecting fair, open, and free Internet access for all Americans.”

“I voted against erecting new toll lanes on Internet traffic and in favor of free speech, competition, and fairness when it comes to e-commerce,” Reed said. “The Trump administration is putting private companies ahead of the public interest. They want to hand giant telecoms more control over the Internet. The American people have made it clear they don’t want don’t want more cost and confusion when it comes to the Internet.”

Prior to the FCC’s vote in December, Reed joined his colleagues in sending a letter to Pai urging the agency to abandon plans to repeal net neutrality. Last December, Reed also hosted an event at the Providence Public Library alongside leading Rhode Island teachers and librarians to discuss how repealing net neutrality could negatively impact Rhode Islanders, consumers, businesses, and democracy and put people who can’t pay for preferential treatment online at a disadvantage.

RI Representative Blake Filippi (R-RI district 36) also said he supported overturning of the repeal, adding that the internet should be viewed as a public utility.

“[I]t needs to be free and open for all,” Filippi said. “I support net neutrality. I don’t think you should have companies throttling back speeds if you don’t use other companies that have deals with them. You have to look at the internet almost as a highway, everyone needs to be treated fairly, and internet service prov iders are public utilities. You can’t put someone in a slower lane just because they’re not a preferred customer.”

Filippi also disagreed with the method of repeal, saying such an action should have been done legislatively, not through executive order.

“Really, I think it’s something that needs to be done legislatively, codify it so you can’t have one administration change policies to a prior administration. You have businesses that rely on stability. I think it’s a problem with the Obama administration, Bush administration, the Trump administration--and that’s governing through executive order,” he said. “I think we need to be more cognizant about codifying policy into law because the people can then rely on it to a much stronger degree than by executive fiat.”

The week’s vote on the CRA occurred nearly a month before the June 12 deadline, when the net neutrality rules are set to expire. However, now that it has passed the US Senate, it must also be approved by the US House of Representatives, where it faces an uphill battle.

Though members of the FCC have stated that the net neutrality rules will expire in June, a group of 22 states, including Rhode Island, have sued to try to stop the rollback of net neutrality protections.

Alex Trubia

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