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US Senate Rushes to Restore Net Neutrality as FCC Announces Death Date

© Joseph GruberNet neutrality advocates received welcome news when FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced his plan to strictly regulate Internet service providers.
Net neutrality advocates received welcome news when FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced his plan to strictly regulate Internet service providers. - Sputnik International
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Net neutrality is set to come to an end in the United States on June 11, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced Thursday at an open meeting.

Web users decried the move when the FCC considered it late last year, accusing telecommunications companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast of trying to monopolize the internet and imposing a pay-to-play system on the web, which critics argued should instead operate as an open marketplace of ideas.

As netizens' objections mounted online, protesters descended on Washington, DC, prior to the December net neutrality vote. Activists demonstrated outside the White House and at FCC and other meetings in the nation's capital, as well as at more than 600 Verizon stores across the US — to no avail.

The FCC voted on December 14, 2017, to rescind the 2015 Open Internet Order, which safeguarded internet users from the whims of large telecommunication companies, which could otherwise play favorites with some websites and throttle or outright block others. The vote was 3-2 along party lines, with Democrats dissenting in favor of keeping the 2015 rules.

Specifically, the 2015 order prevented telecoms from blocking or slowing internet access or websites, and banned paid prioritization. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai argued that the rules should be removed because the FCC had overstepped its authority by imposing the restrictions on telecoms in the first place.

Senate Democrats introduced legislation Wednesday that would override the FCC and reinstate the 2015 regulation. Lawmakers invoked the Congressional Review Act to force a vote, which lets Congress use an expedited legislative process to review new federal regulations. If Congress can pass a joint resolution on net neutrality with a simple majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the measure would then get passed to US President Donald Trump for him to sign or veto.

The Senate is expected to vote next week on the bill. So far, 48 of the 100 Senators are on board and activists are now looking to moderate Republicans to help swing the vote.

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