House net neutrality bill, McConnell says it’s “dead on arrival”.
The US House of Representatives just passed a bill to bring Obama-era net neutrality rules back to the internet. This time, they want to make these regulations law so the Federal Communications Commission can’t overturn them easily.
On Wednesday, the House passed the Save the Internet Act of 2019 on a vote of 232-190. The bill is now headed to the Senate, where Republican leaders have already said it’s destined to fail.
Net neutrality regulations ensured that internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast had to treat all customers and websites equally. As Vox’s Aja Romano explained, these rules had a simple underlying principle: They treated internet access “as a public service that everyone has a right to use, not a privilege.”
But FCC Chair Ajit Pai, an Obama-appointed commissioner whom President Trump made the leader of the regulatory body that governs the internet, scrapped the rules in December 2017. The bill passed Wednesday is the latest attempt by House Democrats to bring back the Obama-era rules, but as is the case with most bills passed by the House this year, there are two huge roadblocks standing in the way: the Senate and President Trump.
Trump has said he will veto the bill should it make it to his desk. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill “dead on arrival in the Senate” and will likely decline to bring the legislation up for a vote as a result.
Senate Commerce Committee Chair Roger Wicker (R-MS) told Vox he plans to block Democrats’ bill but said he’d be open to a bipartisan plan in the future.
There’s actually precedent here for Republicans and Democrats agreeing on the need for a free and fair internet. The Republican-controlled Senate narrowly passed a bill last year to restore the net neutrality rules after Trump’s FCC scrapped them. The House, which was under Republican control at the time, didn’t bring the bill to the floor.
The situation in the Senate is slightly different in 2019.
McConnell has shown little appetite to fight Trump on anything the president opposes outright, including ending a government shutdown over the border wall. And given that Republicans picked up Senate seats in the 2018 election, the three GOP senators who voted for net neutrality — Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and John Kennedy (LA) — would have to be joined by at least one more of their Republican colleagues to pass a net neutrality bill.
Even though public support for restoring net neutrality rules is overwhelming (including among Republican voters), due to conditions in the Senate and Trump’s veto threat, net neutrality is still dead and doesn’t appear headed for resurrection.
What does Democrats’ net neutrality bill do?
The bill Democrats passed in the House, the Save the Internet Act of 2019, is just three pages long. It’s fairly simple — it would undo the FCC’s 2018 repeal of net neutrality rules and codify the rules into law, making it difficult for a future FCC chair to undo them.
“Today, nobody is enforcing any rules. There’s no cop on the beat,” Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), the bill’s main sponsor, told Next Pittsburgh. “Chairman Ajit Pai, when he repealed the open internet order, basically just abdicated the FCC’s authority to regulate the ISPs.”
The fight over net neutrality is, at its core, a fight over whether the internet should be treated as a public utility and how much access users should have to it.