November 11, 2011
Senate Rejects Reversal Of Net Neutrality Rules
The Senate voted 52 to 46 along party lines on Thursday to reject a Republican bid to overturn the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) network neutrality regulations, which are set to take effect November 20.
The vote was largely symbolic, since President Obama had vowed earlier this week to veto any resolution challenging the regulations.
46 Senate Republicans voted in favor of the bill, which was introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), while 52 Senate Democrats voted against it. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) abstained.
The “net neutrality” rules were approved last December on a 3-2 vote, with the three FCC Democrats voting in favor and the two Republicans voting against the measure. The commission presented the new rules as a compromise between phone and cable companies that wanted control over their networks and content providers seeking unfettered Internet access.
The commission said the new rules are aimed at preventing Internet service providers from using speed or normal prioritizing of traffic flow to favor certain content partners.
Under the rules, service providers are prohibited from favoring or discriminating against Internet content and services, including services such as Skype and Netflix, which could compete with their core operations.
The regulations allow the commission to impose fines and bring injunctions against any firm that slows down service to customers who are streaming movies or downloading music.
Some 1,100 companies could be affected, the FCC estimated.
"Today's vote is a win for consumers and businesses. Since its adoption in 2010, the Commission's open Internet framework has brought certainty and predictability, stimulating increased innovation and investment across the broadband economy, including in mobile networks and apps. ... Any effort to disrupt or unsettle that certainty, which has been widely supported by industry, will only undermine innovation and investment in this space,” said the FCC in a statement following the vote.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, also praised the vote.
"This is a victory for innovation, consumers, and common sense," he said in a statement.
"Today, the Senate refused to hand over the internet to a small group of corporate interests, and we need to keep up the fight because we know this isn´t the last we´ve heard of the assault on net neutrality.”
Senator Hutchinson called the regulations “a stunning reversal from a hands-off approach to the Internet that federal policymakers have taken for more than a decade.”
She pointed to a resolution under the Congressional Review Act that allows lawmakers to challenge regulations issued by federal agencies.
Last April, the Republican-led House of Representatives voted 241-178, with 13 abstentions, to repeal the “net neutrality” rules, saying the FCC lacked the authority to set Internet policy and that the new rules would stifle investment in broadband systems.
While Thursday´s Senate vote put an end to Congressional reversal of the rules, the regulations still face a number of legal challenges, most notably from Verizon and some consumer advocacy groups.
Verizon has not disclosed whether it will seek a stay of the rules while its litigation is pending.
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