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Net Neutrality Survives Republican Challenge

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) was one of the bill's sponsors.
Brendan Hoffman
Getty Images
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) was one of the bill's sponsors.

A Senate vote along party lines rejected a Republican proposal to overturn Federal Communications Commission rules that prevent Internet service providers from discriminating against similar websites or content providers.

The net neutrality rules, as they are called, were passed in December and the House passed a bill overturning the rules in April. Today, the Senate rejected the measure, ending the challenge. Reuters reports:

"However, the 52-to-46 Senate vote amounted to a symbolic exercise, as President Obama pledged earlier this week to veto any resolution challenging the FCC's Open Internet regulations.

"The bill was introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) abstained.

"Approved by the FCC last December, the rules are designed to prevent internet service providers from using speed or normal prioritizing of traffic flow to discriminate on behalf of favored content partners. The regulations allow the FCC to impose fines and bring injunctions against companies that slow down internet service for customers who are streaming movies or downloading music.

"The new rules could affect the behavior of approximately 1,100 companies, according to an FCC estimate."

The Los Angeles Times reports that Hutchinson argued that over the past 20 years, the Internet had "flourished without burdensome regulations from Washington."

"If we're going to keep an open and free Internet and keep the jobs it spawns, we should reject the FCC regulation on net neutrality," she said.

The Times adds that Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, argued net neutrality wasn't about changing anything. "Net neutrality and the rules the FCC passed are about keeping the Internet the way it is today and the way it has always been."

The American Civil Liberties Union lauded the vote.

"Without net neutrality, Americans' access to the Internet would hinge not on our right to free speech but on the whims of the corporations that would control it," ACLU legislative counsel Christopher Calabrese told The Hill.

The Washington Post's tech blog adds that another part of the objection from Republicans is that the FCC does not have the authority to pass these rules. That's what some telecoms like Verizon and Metro PCS are arguing in courts. In other words, this is just one hurdle for the new rules.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.