House Democrats Vote to Reinstate Net Neutrality

A router and internet switch are displayed in East Derry, N.H., on June 19, 2018. Net neutrality traces back to an engineering maxim called the “end-to-end principle,” a self-regulating network that put control in the hands of end users rather than a central authority. Traditional cable-TV services, for instance, required special equipment and controlled what channels are shown on TV. With an end-to-end network like the internet, the types of equipment, apps, articles and video services permitted are limited only to imagination. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) – In a move already predicted to meet Senate defeat, the House passed a bill Wednesday to reinstate net-neutrality rules.

Approved this morning in a 232-190 vote, the bill writes into law a 2015 order from the Federal Communications Commission that reclassified internet service providers as common carriers for regulatory purposes. Such classification would prevent ISPs from blocking, throttling and prioritizing certain online content over others.

The FCC reversed the Obama-era order after the election of President Donald Trump, but Wednesday’s bill would roll back that FCC order and prevent the agency from adopting a similar repeal in the future without explicit authorization from Congress. 

Still the bill’s future is bleak. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday the bill is “dead on arrival” in the Senate, and the White House has threatened to veto the measure if it somehow manages to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

But Democrats defended the bill as necessary to allowing equal access to the internet, which has become a critical tool for people and businesses. They said restoring the Obama-era rules would help guard against large companies controlling what information people can find on the internet and how quickly they can access it.

“Supporting this bill means supporting our democracy and showing that our voices – the voices of the public – are heard, that their will is respected and that the internet remains free and open to all,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor Tuesday.

Representative Greg Walden said Republicans oppose the bill, despite being supportive of a law that would prevent internet providers from throttling or blocking certain content, because it gives too much regulatory power to Washington.

“This legislation imposes that heavy hand of Washington’s regulatory bureaucracy over the single most vibrant and important driver of the economic growth in America and the world: job creation, better quality of life, information sharing,” said Walden, an Oregon Republican, on the House floor Tuesday. “We call that the open internet that we enjoy today.” 

The Trump administration’s repeal of net neutrality drew an almost immediate court challenge, with the D.C. Circuit hearing lengthy oral arguments in the case at the beginning of February. The court could rule on the case by the summer.

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