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Senate Dems at 50-Vote Mark to Block FCC's Net Neutrality Repeal

People demonstrate for municipal internet outside City Hall in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 14, 2018, as a line of defense against internet service providers after the FCC repealed net neutrality in December. (Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — The entire Senate Democratic caucus is on board with a resolution of disapproval of the FCC’s net neutrality rollback along with one Republican backer, putting then one vote away from legislative victory.

The Congressional Review Act resolution, introduced last month by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), would restore the 2015 net neutrality rules repealed by a 3-2 Federal Communications Commission vote. After the vote, the FCC described the 2015 rules as “heavy-handed utility-style regulation of broadband Internet access service, which imposed substantial costs on the entire Internet ecosystem” and said the agency would be “returning to the traditional light-touch framework” favored by internet service providers.

The D.C. Circuit Court upheld the Open Internet Order, which prohibited ISPs from slowing down, blocking or otherwise discriminating against content online, in 2016.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can overturn agency regulatory actions with a simple majority vote in both chambers. Lawmakers can force a vote within 60 days of the challenged regulation taking effect.

Markey declared in a statement today that there’s “a tsunami of Congressional and grassroots support to overturn the FCC’s partisan and misguided decision on net neutrality.”

“Republicans now have a clear choice — be on the right side of history and stand with the American people who support a free and open internet, or hold hands with the special interests who want to control the internet for their own profit,” he said. “I urge them to join the majority of Americans, embrace the bipartisanship of net neutrality, and support this resolution.”

A University of Maryland poll taken just before the FCC vote showed 75 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of independents favored keeping the net neutrality rules in place.

Sen. Susan Collins’ (R-Maine) spokeswoman told The Hill that the lawmaker “does not support the FCC’s recent decision to repeal net neutrality rules, and she will support Senator Markey’s legislation that would overturn the FCC’s vote.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said today that “with full caucus support, it’s clear that Democrats are committed to fighting to keep the internet from becoming the Wild West where ISPs are free to offer premium service to only the wealthiest customers while average consumers are left with far inferior options.”

“When we force a vote on this bill, Republicans in Congress will – for the first time — have the opportunity to right the administration’s wrong and show the American people whose side they’re on: big ISPs and major corporations or consumers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners,” he added.

Separately, a multi-state lawsuit is challenging the FCC rollback led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Schneiderman argued that the new rule “would enable ISPs to charge consumers more to access sites like Facebook and Twitter and give them the leverage to degrade high quality of video streaming until and unless somebody pays them more money” and would “enable ISPs to favor certain viewpoints over others.”

He also charged that the public comment process “was deeply corrupted, including two million comments that stole the identities of real people.”

“This is a crime under New York law – and the FCC’s decision to go ahead with the vote makes a mockery of government integrity and rewards the very perpetrators who scammed the system to advance their own agenda,” he said.