May 17, 2018

Blumenthal, Murphy win on net neutrality vote, but House approval unlikely

Flickr user John Roepke
Flickr user John Roepke

The Senate on Wednesday rejected the Trump administration's plan to overturn so-called net neutrality rules, which mandate that internet providers give consumers access to content on an equal basis, without favoring some sources or blocking others.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy voted with all other Senate Democrats and three Republicans to overturn the Federal Communication Commission's Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which took net neutrality rules off the books. They were able to do so through the Congressional Review Act, or CRA, which allows Congress to reverse recent decisions by government agencies.

"Net neutrality is the lifeblood of the internet," Blumenthal said in speech on the Senate floor before the vote. "It is the animating principle that enables companies and individuals to have equal access to the internet without the threat of blocking, discriminating, price gouging, or favoring of some companies at the expense of others."

Murphy tweeted "big step forward today on #NetNeutrality – the internet should remain free and open to all."

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy lauded the Senate's 52-47 vote.

"The FCC's net neutrality decision was a brazen attack on the principles of a free and open internet and it should absolutely be overturned by the Congress," Malloy said. "It is telling that while every Senate Democrat supported this no-brainer legislation, Republicans presented near-unanimous opposition."

The House, however, may not take up the bill.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has said that chamber will take up its own legislation to "permanently address" the issue.

Sens. Chris Murphy, left, and Richard Blumenthal.

To many, the real goal of the Senate vote was a political one, forcing GOP senators to back the FCC's controversial move, which will become fully effective on June 11.

"Which side are you on?" said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, noting the strong support for net neutrality rules from internet users. "There is no constituency on the other side of this other than telecommunications companies."

Like most other internet service providers, Stamford-based Charter Communications and Norwalk-based Frontier lobbied the FCC to reverse Obama-era net neutrality rules.

"Frontier, like all Internet providers, remains committed to the fundamental principles of Internet freedom – no blocking, throttling, or unreasonable discrimination based on the content of the communications," the company said in comments to the FCC. "But the current rules create vast uncertainty regarding regulatory creep and indeed explicitly favor the largest players in the Internet ecosystem – "edge providers" like Netflix, Google, Amazon, and Facebook – over the companies that invest billions to bring broadband infrastructure to millions of Americans nationwide."

Earlier this month, Connecticut's state Senate approved a bill that would prohibit internet providers in the state from blocking websites or charging them for faster delivery of their content.

But that net neutrality bill was not debated or voted on in the state House before the General Assembly's session ended last week.

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