Back in December, the Federal Communications Commission voted to roll back Obama-era net neutrality rules that prohibited internet service providers from charging internet users different prices based on the user, content, website, platform, application, or method of communication.
But yesterday the Senate pushed back, voting 52-47 to reinstate net neutrality protections. The vote may be cosmetic — the House is unlikely to take similar action and the FCC could move ahead with its repeal anyway. So, what does this mean in the meantime?
According to NPR, net neutrality has moved from a “wonk issue into a wedge issue” among voters, an overwhelming majority of whom favor net neutrality rules. “Today is a monumental day,” Democratic Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey said during debate on the issue. “Today we show the American people who sides with them, and who sides with the powerful special interests and corporate donors who are thriving under this administration.”
NPR also speculated that Democrats could try to continue the net neutrality fight into the November elections. Most Republicans oppose net neutrality rules, and the resolution is not expected to pass the House, which has until January of next year to vote on it.
Democrats put forth the resolution by way of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to review new regulations by federal agencies. The CRA provides an expedited legislative process under which only a simple majority is required to pass legislation. Republicans successfully invoked the CRA last year to repeal FCC rules that barred internet service providers from selling their users’ browsing data without consent.
Because the FCC’s repeal had not yet gone into effect, yesterday’s vote won’t affect your internet use today. But the battle over net neutrality could mean big bucks in the future, as evidenced by the increase in lobbying efforts following the vote.