Net neutrality debate flares brightly in the U.S. senate

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The U.S. senate will vote on network neutrality, and reinstatement might have enough votes to win the day. But that’s as far as it’ll go.

Yesterday, U.S. senate democrats executed a parliamentary maneuver and forced a full floor vote on a resolution of disapproval aimed at overturning the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to roll back the net neutrality rules adopted in 2015. It’s based on a law, called the Congressional Review Act, that allows congress to veto decisions made by federal agencies. If both houses of congress vote in favor and the president signs it.

There’s a chance that a majority of U.S. senators will vote for the veto. There are 49 democrats, and independents who vote with the democrats, in the U.S. senate. One republican – Maine’s Susan Colllins – is a co-sponsor of the resolution. That makes it 50 in favor of net neutrality, which could be enough to win, if Arizona republican John McCain stays on medical leave – the vote has to be taken by 12 June 2018, and he might be out that long (although there are predictions that the vote could come as early as next week).

To pull the same trick in the house of representatives, though, more than a dozen republicans would have to cross over and that’s highly unlikely. As is an approving signature from president Donald Trump. House republicans have already dissed the resolution, saying that they’re working on their own version of a net neutrality revival. So did senator John Thune (R – South Dakota), calling the move “political theater”, even while claiming he supports “rules that prevent blocking, throttling, and paid prioritisation of Internet traffic”.

So the resolution of disapproval will die along the way. But U.S. senators and, by default if nothing else, house members will have to line up on one side or the other. That’s enough to make it a potent campaign issue as democrats try to gain control of both houses in November.