Net Neutrality Advocates Push For Senate Vote

Net neutrality advocates are pressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow lawmakers to vote on a proposal to restore a set of Obama-era regulations.

“Americans want and deserve enforceable protections that preserve net neutrality, ensure stronger broadband competition, and improve access,” more than 100 groups say in a letter to the Kentucky senator. “They don’t want big cable and phone companies controlling what they see, say, and do online.”

The organizations -- including the American Library Association, Consumer Reports, Free Press Action and the Electronic Frontier Foundation -- are urging McConnell to allow the Senate to vote on the Save the Internet Act, which would reinstate the sweeping 2015 net neutrality rules.

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Those rules banned providers from blocking or throttling traffic and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery. The regulations also contained a "general conduct" standard that broadly prohibited broadband providers from unreasonably impeding the ability of consumers and content providers to reach each other.

In late 2017, the Republican-led FCC voted to repeal those rules. Tech companies, advocacy groups and others recently asked a federal appellate court to vacate the FCC's repeal order. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in February, and is still considering the matter.

Chairman Ajit Pai, who shepherded the repeal, says the old regulations were too heavy-handed, and depressed investment.

But consumer advocates and other net neutrality proponents argue that net neutrality rules are necessary to prevent Comcast, AT&T and other broadband providers from censoring sites or discriminating against competitors like Netflix. Advocacy groups also question whether the Obama-era rules actually caused a drop in investment. The group Free Press, which analyzed carriers' stock reports, said investment by 13 major broadband providers increased in the two years after the FCC passed the net neutrality regulations.

Earlier this year, the House passed the Save the Internet Act by a vote of 232-190, but McConnell has so far refused to allow the Senate to vote on the bill, which he declared “dead on arrival.”

Democratic Senators Ed Markey (Massachusetts), Maria Cantwell (Washington) and Ron Wyden (Oregon) say they plan to speak on the Senate floor Tuesday, when they will ask McConnell to allow a vote on the proposed bill.

Last year, the Senate voted 52-47 to restore the Obama-era net neutrality rules. The vote was largely partisan, but three Republicans crossed party lines to support the measure -- Senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and John Kennedy (Louisiana). That effort stalled in the House, which was controlled by Republicans at the time.

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