Network Neutrality Vote Will Happen In the US Senate

The debate around network neutrality is proving to be alive and well in 2018. This is thanks in part to the Democrats forcing a senate vote on the subject.

The network neutrality debate in the US is showing no sign of slowing down. Following the hugely controversial vote at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which saw the rules scrapped last year, many were scrambling to find ways to reverse the decision.

Network neutrality is the idea that every packet is treated equally by your ISP. The ISP cannot introduce so-called “fast lanes” and slow other kinds of traffic. It also doesn’t permit zero rating which can favour ISP owned services over competing products.

while it is easy to think that the 3-2 vote at the FCC means that the decision is final, very little in US politics is final. In spite of rules forbidding states from enacting their own network neutrality laws, states like California are forging ahead anyway with their own laws.

Another idea floating around is forcing the federal level of government to vote on the issue. While Republicans control both congress and the senate, legislators would find themselves going on record either supporting or rejecting network neutrality rules. We are now learning that this idea has now overcome a big hurdle in moving forward. According to CNET, Democrats in the senate have reached a critical 30 sponsors to force a vote. From the report:

Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, said Monday she will be the 30th co-sponsor of a bill that will use the Congressional Review Act to reverse the FCC’s vote to dismantle net neutrality rules. Under this law, Congress has the power to reverse a federal agency’s ruling within 60 legislative days of it being made. But in order to do that, a majority in both houses of Congress must support the move, something that’s unlikely in the current politically divisive environment.

“We’ve reached the magic number of 30 to secure a vote on the Senate floor, and that number will only continue to climb,” Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said in a statement Monday. “Republicans are faced with a choice — be on the right side of history and stand with the American people who support a free and open internet, or hold hands with the special interests who want to control the internet for their own profit.”

While Democrats have reached a crucial threshold for bringing the bill to vote on the Senate floor, it’s unlikely to pass since Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Even if they could muster the votes from members of Congress, the bill would still need to be signed by President Donald Trump, which seems unlikely.

That said, Democrats and net neutrality activists see the vote as important as they force Republicans to take a stand on dismantling the popular rules in an election year. Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, has said he’s hopeful a new generation of voters who care about the internet will see net neutrality as their defining issue, much like members of the National Rifle Association, who support the Second Amendment.

One way of looking at this is that this is ultimately going to be little more than a political move. Still, it does ultimately prove that there is plenty of discontent over the decision in the first place.

At this stage, there are a lot of gears moving in government to fight this decision. With so much happening at this point in time, the network neutrality debate isn’t going away any time soon.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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