The U.S. Senate voted 52-47 to overturn the FCC’s 2017 repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules, with all Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor of the measure.
The Senate approved a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would undo the Federal Communications Commission’s vote to deregulate the broadband industry. If the CRA is approved by the House and signed by President Donald Trump, internet service providers would have to continue following rules that prohibit blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.
The Republican-controlled FCC voted in December to repeal the rules, which require internet service providers to give equal footing to all web traffic.
Democrats argued that scrapping the rules would give ISPs free rein to suppress certain content or promote sites that pay them.
Republicans insist they, too, believe in net neutrality, but want to safeguard it by crafting forward-looking legislation rather than reimposing an outdated regulatory structure.
“Democrats have decided to take the issue of net neutrality and make it partisan,” Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota said. “Instead of working with Republicans to develop permanent net neutrality legislation, they’ve decided to try to score political points with a partisan resolution that would do nothing to permanently secure net neutrality.”
Before the vote, Senator Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, urged fellow senators to disregard the “armies of lobbyists marching the halls of Congress on behalf of big internet service providers.”
Lobbyists tried to convince senators that net neutrality rules aren’t needed “because ISPs will self-regulate,” and that blocking, throttling and paid prioritization are just hypothetical harms, Markey said.
Lobby groups representing all the major cable companies, telecoms and mobile carriers urged senators to reject the attempt to restore net neutrality rules.
The resolution still faces tough odds in the House. It requires 218 votes to force a vote there, and only 160 House Democrats back the measure for now. The legislation would also require the signature of Trump, who has criticized the net neutrality rules.
While Democrats recognize they are unlikely to reverse the FCC’s rule, they see the issue as a key policy desire that energizes their base voters, a top priority ahead of the midterm elections.