Senate votes to overturn FCC decision on net neutrality, return to Obama-era rules

The Senate voted to reinstate net neutrality rules Wednesday essentially returning them to Obama-era regulations. However, it still has to pass through the House in order to cause tangible change.

But major hurdles still face supporters of net neutrality, the principle that Internet Service Providers should give consumers access to all legal content and applications on an equal basis, not favoring some sources or blocking others.

Like many other national issues, the subject is a partisan one. Democrats were able to prevail 52-47 in the Senate with all of their party on board, plus three Republicans — Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Sen. John Kennedy, R-La.; and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. (Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is undergoing cancer treatment in Arizona and is not in Washington, D.C., to vote.)

However, the measure is unlikely to pass in the U.S. House and even if it were, would have to be approved by President Trump.

In December 2017, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, appointed by President Trump in January 2017, shepherded the passage of the Restoring Internet Freedom order, which overturned net neutrality rules the agency had passed two years earlier when the commission was controlled by Democrats. Those Obama-era rules prevented Internet service providers from blocking or slowing legal traffic, or from being paid for prioritized, faster delivery.

The replacement rules, which go into effect next month, have a lighter-touch to enforcement. Internet service providers must disclose any blocking, throttling or prioritization of their own content or from their partners. However, they are not prevented from doing so, as did the 2015 rules.

ISPs have said they won't block or throttle legal websites, but have left open the potential for charging more for transport of some data.

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