In what’s considered a historic upset, this week in mid-May the U.S. Senate force a vote to approve a measure to protect net neutrality. Three Republicans (Senators Susan Collins of Maine, John Kennedy of Louisiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) joined Senate Democrats in the vote.
The Senate vote of 52 to 47 is purposed to overturn the Federal Communication Commission (FCC)’s 2017 restrictions on net neutrality, ironically called ‘Restoring Internet Freedom Order’ (FCC terminology). The 2017 FCC ruling reversed the ‘Open Internet Order’ net neutrality rules established in 2015 under the Obama administration, ordering that Internet service providers treat all traffic sources equally with no dictates on accessible online content.
In the recent vote Senate Democrats cooperated with net neutrality advocates, using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to restore Obama-era net neutrality protections. The CRA allows reversal of recent decisions made by government agencies, requiring only 30 signatures to force a vote on reversal.
The Senate vote being an important step towards reinstating net neutrality rules, still leaves advocates facing a daunting challenge in quickly getting the House to join the Senate in passing the measure.
The challenge is ‘huge’.
The Senate requires a deadline for passage of the net neutrality measure. The House does not have a deadline, allowing it to delay voting until a next year’s new Congressional session, which will include newly elected congressional seats.
Large Internet providers (Verizon comes to mind) vigorously favor having the right to choose what consumers can access online, and to charge websites according to the value they as providers ‘set’ on website content. Large providers generally see net neutrality as significantly limiting their potential for increased revenue.
Providers don’t like the idea of net neutrality, feeling they should be able to pick and choose what people see online, and to charge content providers according to their need for Internet visibility. Large Internet providers are broadly adverse to what they consider to be net neutrality blocking their potential for added revenue.
The previous 2015 FCC net neutrality ruling overshadowed a 2002 FCC decision that Internet providers should be regulated differently than phone line providers. Both Internet and phone services are telecommunication entities. But unlike the 80-year regulation of phone companies to prevent discrimination in selling services, the FCC in 2002 opted for no prevention of exploitation from Internet providers.
The 2017 FCC ruling that countered net neutrality was apparently designed to reaffirm the 2002 ruling. Verizon strongly opposed the Open Internet Ruling because the ruling opposed the FCC’s 2002 decision not to regulate Internet service providers. In agreement with Verizon, the court said, “even though the Commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates.”
Continued Struggle for Net Neutrality
The reversal of net neutrality re-inserts Internet providers as ‘rulers’ of public online communication, leaving consumers with no control of their access to content, and burdening content providers with added expense to ensure that their content is viewed.
But now Congress is starting to listen to a deluge of protest demonstrations, activist advocacy, consumer petitions – letters – and emails, and organized action from small business owners, all pushing for net neutrality. The FCC ruling against net neutrality may advantage large Internet providers, but it is hurting the public and business in general. Much of consumerism is becoming online activity just when businesses are faced with the possible hardships of Internet fees levied on their access to consumers.
The struggle continues.
If interested in actively becoming part of the push to re-install net neutrality, you can start by contacting your representative with your views and comments:
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
The operator will connect you to your representative’s office. Click HERE to find your representative for contact by phone or email.
For more information on the struggle for net neutrality see Forbes: Senate Votes To Save Net Neutrality Rules Amid Public Outcry, And An Uphill Battle and the 2014 article, Business Insider–EXPLAINED: ‘Net Neutrality’ For Dummies, How It Affects You, And Why It Might Cost You More, from which much of this information was derived.