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US Senate forces vote to restore net neutrality

If it passes, the vote goes to the House of Representatives, followed by the President's desk

Members of the United States Senate submitted a petition today under the Congressional Review Act that will force a vote on the FCC's revocation of net neutrality. The petition is being led by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and a vote is expected sometime next week.

Net neutrality protections previously existed under the 2015 Open Internet Order. Per the order, broadband internet was reclassified from a Title I service to Title II, requiring it to be regulated as a utility and preventing service providers from throttling or speeding up certain websites based on paid partnerships.

This protection was removed in late 2017 by a 3-2 vote from the FCC led by Chairman Ajit Pai, with the new rules allowing such throttling as long as it is disclosed. The reversal was officially published in the Federal Register on February 22. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can reverse such a federal regulation by a simple majority in both the Senate and House, so long as their joint resolution is passed within 60 legislative days of the regulation's publication.

Currently, the reversal is supported by 50 US senators (48 Democratic senators with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Angus King (I-ME)), but they need one more vote for it to pass. More moderate senators with a history of voting across party lines such as Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) have been floated as possible 51st votes. If passed, the House would prove a greater challenge. 160 representatives have confirmed their support out of the 218 total needed thus far, per Senator Markey. Even then, a veto from President Donald Trump would end the entire endeavor.

Still, such a vote is not outside of the realm of possibility and, if passed, would prevent Pai's new rules from being considered again by the FCC. Even if the measure fails, strong bipartisan support in Congress could pair with even stronger public support for net neutrality (83% opposed the repeal according to a December poll) to bolster coming legal challenges to the change.

Support for the restoration of net neutrality is especially vocal from the gaming community, which stands to pay a hefty toll if the Title I classification is upheld. In addition, many online companies and communities such as Reddit, Tumblr, Tinder, Etsy, Pornhub, and Wikimedia have spoken out in support of the Senate vote today under a "Red Alert" banner.

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