Despite efforts last month by Democrats in the United States Senate to pass legislation to preserve the rules governing an open and free internet, net neutrality may still be coming to an end on Monday. The Senate passed its version of a bill to retain rules that were recently reversed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), thus saving net neutrality, in a 52 to 47 vote, with all Democrats in favor and several Republicans crossing the aisle. However, in order for the House of Representatives to take action, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan must call for a vote on the issue.
“The rules that this resolution would restore were enacted by the FCC in 2015 to prevent broadband providers from blocking, slowing down, prioritizing, or otherwise unfairly discriminating against internet traffic that flows across their networks,” Senate Democrats led by Chuck Schumer of New York, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Brian Schatz of Hawaii wrote in a letter to Ryan urging him to call for a vote. “Without these protections, broadband providers can decide what content gets through to consumers at what speeds and could use this power to discriminate against their competitors or other content.”
Although the bill proposed by Democrats would retain the full spirit of net neutrality, competing bills sponsored by Republicans would only keep portions of the net neutrality rules intact, with one version still allowing for data prioritization.
The FCC voted in December to repeal net neutrality, which will take place on June 11 unless congressional leaders intervene. In order for Congress to reinstate net neutrality, the bill must be passed by both chambers of Congress and gain the signature of President Donald Trump.
In the House, net neutrality faces an uphill battle. The House could still force a vote on the issue even without Ryan’s help or intervention by obtaining a discharge petition. Given that Republicans hold a 223 to 193 majority in the house, getting the 218 signatures needed for the discharge petition to force a vote would be a challenging feat. This means that 25 Republicans would need to cross the aisle to join House Democrats, The Hill said. In the past, only 170 members of the House had publicly declared their support for preserving the principles of net neutrality.
Speaker Ryan declined to offer any comment about the issue, Ars Technica reported.
Even without federal laws governing net neutrality, a few states have passed their own legislation to protect an open internet. Montana, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey and Vermont have state laws to protect net neutrality, and California is working on such legislation.