The Senate voted to overturn the FCC's repeal of net neutrality on Wednesday afternoon, but experts say the measure faces a tough road ahead.
By 52 to 47, the Senate passed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) to undo the FCC's vote to deregulate broadband internet. The bill now heads to the House for a vote.
What is net neutrality and why is it important?
Net neutrality prevents internet service providers from charging higher prices for access to different types of content — video or social media, for example — or establishing "fast lanes" for companies that pay more for quicker access to their sites. Proponents say it levels the playing field between corporations and small businesses and saves consumers money.
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"Net neutrality is the free speech issue of our time," said Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) before the vote. He said the FCC's decision to abolish it "neglected the will of everyday Americans and gave a gift to the rich and powerful." Broadband lobbyists sought to convince Senators that the rule was unnecessary and that providers would self-regulate, Ars Technica reported.
In December, a University of Maryland poll found that 83 percent of Americans, including 75 percent of Republicans, were opposed to ending net neutrality. But Trump-appointed FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai vowed to overturn it anyway, and in December the board voted to end net neutrality on June 11. That will still happen unless the House passes the bill and President Trump signs it by that date.
What happens now?
Preserving net neutrality looks like a long shot. Republicans have a 236-193 majority in the House, compared to a one-seat majority in the Senate. (Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John Kennedy of Louisiana joined Democrats in pushing the bill through there.) Democrats would need all their members to vote in line — which is not certain — along with 22 Republicans. And ultimately, President Trump does not support it.
Earlier this year, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an investigation into the FCC's public comment page on net neutrality being stacked with pro-repeal comments made under stolen identities, some from people who were deceased. An audit found that nearly 100% of organic comments on the page were opposed to repealing the rule.
Pai, who previously worked as a lawyer for Verizon, is under separate investigation. The FCC's Inspector General is looking into Pai's decision to abolish longtime limits on TV-station ownership to enable conservative broadcaster Sinclair Broadcasting to greatly enlarge its presence across the country.