Democrats bring net neutrality to Senate floor, McConnell ignores their will

"With voters from across the political spectrum overwhelmingly united in support of an open internet, it's only a matter of time before net neutrality is restored."

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Image credit: Media Matters

While Senator Edward Markey and other Democrats brought net neutrality to the Senate floor on Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, did his part to ignore their will.

“The Save the Internet Act does exactly what the American people want,” said Markey. “It restores the rules that ensure families aren’t subject to high prices, slower internet speeds, and even blocked websites because the big broadband providers want to pump up their products. Eighty-six percent of Americans do not approve of the Federal Communication Commission action to repeal net neutrality rules, including 82 percent of Republicans,” he said, citing a University of Maryland survey conducted this year.

The Save the Internet Act passed the House this past April, but the Senate has yet to “listen to the American public” and bring an immediate vote to the floor. But McConnell isn’t budging from his initial position that the bill is “dead on arrival.”

The Senate passed the Congressional Act (CRA) in May 2018 to restore net neutrality rules, which is “an obscure legislative tool” introduced by Sen. Ed Markey, (D-Mass.) unlike a conventional bill that Federal Communications Commission reversed in 2017.

Senator Ron Wyden said that the impact of the repeal will be felt soon enough. “Mega-mergers” will soon reshape the internet and entertainment industries.

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“Some of those new mega-corporations also own the content they distribute, and they want it to reach as many consumers as possible,” Wyden said. “That means the internet is fracturing,”

He warned that “customers of one ISP could be forced to pay additional fees to access streaming services owned by their competitors, Gizmodo reported.

Advocacy groups and digital rights organizations, including Fight for the Future who was one of the open letter signatories, vow to keep up the fight for an open and free internet.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, but every day that passes without Congress acting to restore net neutrality, the things people love about the internet are slowly fading away,” Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement ahead of Tuesday’s livestream. “It’s becoming more centralized, exploitative, and controlled by corporate interests.”

“With voters from across the political spectrum overwhelmingly united in support of an open internet, it’s only a matter of time before net neutrality is restored.”

Read the open letter to McConnell in its entirety below:

Dear Majority Leader McConnell:

In April, the House of Representatives passed the ​Save the Internet Act ​(H.R. 1644) with bipartisan support. This critical bill restores net neutrality and broadband competition protections for all Americans, ensuring that rural and underserved communities gain access to the internet and that big cable companies are not able to control what people do, see, and say online.

We the undersigned 103 organizations urge you to listen to the American public and to immediately bring the ​Save the Internet Act ​(S.682) to a vote in the Senate.

Today marks one year since the FCC made the unpopular decision to officially kill net neutrality and broadband protections for the American people​. ​On the one-year anniversary of the end of the ​Open Internet Order​, we encourage the Senate to join your House colleagues in implementing the will of your constituents—4 in 5 of whom support net neutrality, including 77% of Republicans, according to recent polling.

Since the repeal of the ​Open Internet Order​ by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), millions of Americans have been fighting to protect an open and accessible internet and calling on Congress to restore vital protections for universal communications rights, small business innovation, and free speech online.

In the year since the FCC took away the 2015 ​Open Internet Order​, we have seen some very troubling and dangerous activities by big cable and telephone companies:

  • Verizon slowed down the Santa Clara fire department’s data in the midst of one of the worst wildfires in California history;
  • The largest U.S. telecom companies were caught slowing streaming speeds to popular applications like YouTube and Netflix;
  • Centurylink blocked internet access to force customers to view specific ads;
  • AT&T gave preference to its own video services by not having its video data count against customers’ monthly data caps; and
  • Sprint has been accused of interfering with Skype, which provides an alternative to wireless carriers’ voice, video, or messaging services.

Despite empty rhetoric by open internet opponents, the 2015 ​Open Internet Order​ did not harm broadband investment from 2015-2017, nor is broadband investment, deployment, or speed increasing since the FCC’s repeal.

While advocates seek redress in court to overturn the FCC’s disastrous repeal, Senate passage of the ​Save the Internet Act ​will reaffirm Congress’s intent and support for broadband users’ rights. Passing this bill would help reestablish important net neutrality protections while the court case challenging the FCC’s net neutrality repeal proceeds through months, or even years, of additional appeals. Like the House, the Senate should pass this bill without any harmful amendments designed to water down, weaken, or fatally wound it.

Senator McConnell, we call on you to enact the will of hundreds of millions of people who support open internet protections and broadband competition, and the millions who have taken action demanding them, by allowing Senators to vote on the ​Save the Internet Act​.

Americans want and deserve enforceable protections that preserve net neutrality, ensure stronger broadband competition, and improve access. They don’t want big cable and phone companies controlling what they see, say, and do online. They want more choices and more affordable internet access service.

The ​Save the Internet Act​ is the best chance to restore real net neutrality and an open and accessible internet for everyone in America​. We urge the Senate to move forward on this important bill that will restore strong open internet protections.

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