By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
Well I certainly didn’t see this coming. When the FCC voted to overturn Net Neutrality rules last Spring, it was a forgone conclusion that keeping the Internet open for all would be doomed. But the Senate has passed a law on a bi-partisan vote to preserve the rules. Does that mean Net Neutrality is alive and well? No. But it is a positive step.
The vote on the Congressional Review Act was almost as close at it gets, as the Senate voted 52-47 to overturn the FCC’s decision to scuttle Obama era Net Neutrality rules. It was mostly a party line vote, with two Republicans joining the Democrat majority to tip the scales. In essence, the CRA would give Congress the authority to reverse decisions of government agencies like the FCC.
Technically, it was a bipartisan effort, but in reality, the vote was mostly along party lines. Honestly, I think that when members in Congress don’t really have a grasp of a complicated issue like Net Neutrality, they tend to default to party line votes like this. One side doesn’t want to support an overreaching government relegation, the other doesn’t want to give corporations control over the most important communication tool in history. Both see themselves as attempting to keep the Internet “fair and open,” they’re just looking at it from the default sides of their political philosophy. There are some, like Senator John Thune, however, who voted against the bill, but are in favor of it in spirit. Thune supports the concept of Net Neutrality, but believes that labeling broadband providers are Title II common carriers like telephone companies amounts is too much power over commerce.
Internet service providers would love to be able to carve up the internet and provide fast lanes for traffic to people willing to pay for it, while remaining traffic gets buffered and waits in line to be transferred. Little guys trying to do live streaming over YouTube, who can’t really afford to pay for the fast lane, could have their livelihoods jeopardized in favor of companies like Netflix and Amazon who are willing to pay for quicker access. Ironically, Netflix fought this battle for awhile, before finally giving in and paying up. Since then, they’ve been ironically silent on the issue of Net Neutrality. Additionally, without Net Neutrality rules, there would be nothing stopping ISPs from creating an internet that looks more like cable television, with extra charges for certain content.
At the end of the day, it really comes down to 1s and 0s. Bits are bits, whether those bits consist of streaming 4K video of Netflix and YouTube, or if they amount to a blogpost or email coming. Net Neutrality seeks to keep all traffic the same. But the CRA, and Net Neutrality specifically, isn’t out of the woods yet. While the Senate only had to swing two votes, the House would need 22 Republicans to cross the aisle in order for the CRA to pass. Even then, it would require the President’s signature to become law. Both are unlikely.
What really needs to happen, however, is that rather than pass a resolution that amounts to political theater in an election year, Congress needs to pass comprehensive a Net Neutrality that spells out protections for an open internet. And with ISPs having a stronger lobbying presence than internet advocates, that isn’t likely.
So while Net Neutrality’s demise has been stayed, it’s still practically inevitable for the foreseeable future.
Hat Tip – The Verge