WASHINGTON — A Senate resolution to restore the FCC’s net neutrality rules was likely to pass, after it cleared a procedural vote in what Democrats hope will be a potent issue going into the 2018 midterms.
The Senate voted 52-47 to open the debate on a resolution, which would reimpose the net neutrality rules that the FCC had in place until the agency’s Republican majority repealed them in December. Three Republicans joined with Democrats — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — on the procedural vote.
A final vote is set for later on Wednesday afternoon.
The FCC voted 3-2 to roll back many of the existing net neutrality rules, including those prohibiting internet service providers from blocking or throttling of content, or from selling so-called “fast lanes” for speedier access to consumers.
The repeal goes into effect on June 11.
The FCC’s Republican majority, led by chairman Ajit Pai, claim that the rules were choking off investment and imposed service regulation on broadband akin to that placed on phone companies early in the 20th century. The FCC also repealed the regulatory underpinning for the rules, in which internet service was classified as a common carrier.
The FCC’s move stirred opposition in Congress and in statehouses. Lawmakers in California, for instance, are weighing legislation, while a coalition of 23 state attorneys general are seeking to turn back the FCC’s action in court.
The Senate resolution — led by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) — enables Congress to overturn agency actions within a certain timeframe and by majority vote.
Markey said that vote was the most important that the Senate had taken on the internet.
“For rural America, without the Markey resolution, it means that the net moves along at a snail’s pace,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said from the Senate floor on Wednesday. “It means rural businesses have a harder time getting off the ground and reaching customers.”
The Senate’s move may end up being merely symbolic. It must pass the in the GOP-controlled House, and it also must secure the signature of President Donald Trump. The White House has expressed its support for the FCC’s move in December to repeal the net neutrality rules, and Trump has often touted his ability to roll back government regulations.
The FCC did not rollback rules that require internet providers to disclose their traffic management practices, with complaints largely handled through the Federal Trade Commission.