House Approves Restoring Net Neutrality

As expected, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives April 10 voted to restore net neutrality guidelines established by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015 and repealed in 2017 under the direction of President Trump’s appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai.

The 232-190 vote (along party lines) on the Save the Internet Act would – if approved by the Senate and signed by Trump – restore guidelines prohibiting Internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from throttling consumer access to online video services and enforce regulation characterizing the Internet as a utility similar to electricity and the telephone.

“With the Save the Internet Act, Democrats are honoring the will of the people,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement last month.

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Despite bipartisan support in the Senate, which passed (52-47) a Congressional Review Act in 2017 to overturn the FCC’s decision, approval of the House measure by the GOP-controlled Senate now seems slim.

Due to the rules of governance, passage of the CRA required a simple majority of votes. Passage of the Save the Internet Act requires 60 Senate votes (a supermajority), which the Democrats don’t have.

Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the media the House measure would be “dead on arrival” once it is sent over.

And the White House April 8 issued a statement saying that if the bill was presented to Trump, he would be advised to veto it.

‘Save the Internet Act’ Passes First House Test

A bill, spearheaded by Democrats in the House of Representatives to restore Obama-era net neutrality guidelines regulating the Internet as a utility, March 26 passed a panel vote, 18-11, along party lines to advance to a full committee vote.

If the “Save the Internet Act,” which would restore the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality guidelines mandating all Internet traffic be treated equally, passes the House, it would have to be reconciled with the Senate and then signed by President Trump – the latter not likely considering his FCC chairman pick, Ajit Pai, initiated rollback of the regulations in 2017.

Republicans argue net neutrality guidelines would give the government too much control of the Internet. Some have looped the bill with freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal economic stimulus program that includes climate change and income equality, among other issues.

“I’m disappointed that we’re considering this proposal, which [is] like so many other things like the Green New Deal and all these other plans to have more government control over our everyday lives,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in a statement.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) countered that without net neutrality, there is “no backstop” safeguarding consumers from corporations.

Phillip Berenbroick, senior policy lawyer at Public Knowledge, said that since the Trump-era FCC repealed its Open Internet Order in 2017, broadband providers have “slowly and carefully” moved to undermine net neutrality in their business practices and their advocacy.

“We urge members of the House to support this bill and encourage every American to demand that their Representatives vote to approve it immediately,” he wrote.