This lone House Republican wants to force a vote to restore net neutrality
A lone House Republican has come out in favour of a vote to overturn the rolling back of net neutrality enacted by the Trump administration. In a move reminiscent of “ban the ban”, Mike Coffman of Colorado has announced his intentions to back an effort to force a vote on the contentious issue.
In doing so, Coffman has become the first Republican in the US House of Representatives to support such an effort, after net neutrality rules came into effect on 11 June. The trailblazing initiative could well mark a watershed moment in the uphill battle to restore net neutrality, with campaigners and advocacy groups no doubt delighted at Coffman’s decision.
Meanwhile, back in May, the US Senate voted 52-47 to preserve net neutrality regulation introduced under Barack Obama, after the FCC repealed it last December.
All 49 Democrats voted in favour of the resolution, along with three Republican Senators: John Kennedy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Although it marked a major victory for activists and consumer advocacy groups all around the country, the resolution must be passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and signed by Trump in order for it to be enacted.
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Net neutrality rules passed by the Obama administration in 2015 prevent ISPs from throttling the speed of content running across their networks and charging more for faster access to specific websites and services. However, after the FCC voted to repeal the regulation last year, the rules could be scrapped as soon as next month.
Political commentators say that it’s highly unlikely Trump will sign the resolution, because the White House backed the FCC ruling and he also signed a Congressional Review Act last year, overturning other FCC rules that implemented better privacy protection for internet users.
As reported by the Guardian, Senator John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota labelled the Senate’s vote as “political theatre”, saying it stood no chance of approval by the House. However, he also urged Democrats to work with him so that certain net neutrality could be implemented, and promised internet users would not notice a big difference in the service when the repeal comes into effect.
Referring to a time before new regulation was introduced by the Obama administration, he said: “That’s what we’re going back to: rules that were in place for two decades under a light-touch regulatory approach that allowed the internet to explode and prosper and grow”.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was elevated to his position by Trump, echoed these sentiments. “It’s disappointing that Senate Democrats forced this resolution through by a narrow margin. But ultimately, I’m confident that their effort to reinstate heavy-handed government regulation of the Internet will fail,” he said in a statement. “The Internet was free and open before 2015, when the prior FCC buckled to political pressure from the White House and imposed utility-style regulation on the Internet. And it will continue to be free and open once the Restoring Internet Freedom Order takes effect on June 11.”
Meanwhile, Jessica Rosenworcel, an FCC commissioner who fought the repeal, said: “Today the United States Senate took a big step to fix the serious mess the FCC made when it rolled back net neutrality late last year…I’ll keep raising a ruckus to support net neutrality and I hope others will.”
Perhaps Coffman’s bold initiative will spur on action from fellow House Republicans, who share the same – albeit latent – beliefs.