Senate to Vote on Net Neutrality Repeal Override Wednesday

CYBERSPACE—In what Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey calls “the most important vote for the internet in the history of the Senate,” the United States Senate on Wednesday will decide if Obama-era “net neutrality” rules that guarantee an open internet should stay in place, or be scrapped as the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission board decided in December on a party-line, 3-2 vote.

The FCC announced last week that the net neutrality rules—which require that internet service providers give equal access to the global network to data from all online sites—would be repealed on June 11, giving way to a new online landscape in which giant telecommunications corporations can create an “internet fast lane” for some sites while deliberaely causing massive traffic jams for others.

The dangers of a net neutrality rollback for the online porn industry appear clear. ISPs could choose to create premium pricing plans for users who want to access online porn—or they could block access to porn completely.

All 47 Senate Democrats, plus independents Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, have pledged to vote in favor of keeping net neutrality rules—and they have been joined by one Republican, Susan Collins, also of Maine. With Arizona Senator John McCain likely absent due to an ongoing illness, the 50 votes should be enough to pass the repeal-blocking measure.

But the measure would still need to pass the House, where Republicans hold a seemingly insurmountable 43-seat majority. And in the unlikely event that the House sided with the Senate, net neutrality would still face a veto from Donald Trump.

But Democrats see another upside to the Wednesday’s vote, even if they are unable to stop the repeal of net neutrality regulations. With public opinion polls consistently showing high levels of support across the ideological spectrum for keeping net neutrality in place, one Senate Democrat said on Sunday that the vote could prove to be “electoral dynamite” in November’s midterm elections, when Democrats will attempt to regain control of at least one if not both houses of Congress.

“I have seen nothing so far to indicate that this is not electoral dynamite,” said Hawaii Democrat Brian Schatz. “I think every Democratic candidate ought to look very hard as to what this will do in terms of enthusiasm among millennials and the extent to which it can mobilize infrequent voters."

A University of Maryland poll taken shortly before the FCC’s December vote to trash net neutrality showed massive, across the board support for the open internet rules—with even 75 percent of Republicans joining the 89 percent of Democrats and 86 percent on independent voters who say they want to keep net neutrality rules in place.

A Morning Consult poll taken in the days following the FCC’s December vote showed lower levels of support—but still with a majority favoring net neutrality rules. In that poll, slightly more Republicans than Democrats said that they favored net neutrality rules, with 50 percent of GOP voters in favor while only 48 percent of Democrats supported the rules.

Image by Camilo Sanchez / Wikimedia Commons