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Net Neutrality Activists Seek GOP Commitments on Net Bill

With legislation to roll back net neutrality rule deregulation--the Save the Internet Act--having passed in the House last week, activists are looking to get enough Republicans on board to push it through that Republican-controlled body.

In the last Congress, before the Democrats regained control of the House, a legislative maneuver to roll back the deregulatory Restoring Internet Freedom Order narrowly passed the Senate with the help of independents who caucus with the Democrats and three republicans, Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark.) and Susan Collins (R-Me.). It went nowhere in the then-Republican controlled House.

Related: House Votes to Re-Regulate Internet Access

Fight for the Future (FFTF), which has been fighting to restore the Title II-based regs against blocking, throttling, paid prioritization and a general conduct standard to get at conduct that does not fit under those, wants to get Murkowsky and Collins on the record on where they stand in this Congress, since they have yet to sign on to the Senate version of the Save the Internet Act. Kennedy reportedly has said he will vote the same way he did last time, which was to restore the rules, in that case by nullifying the Restore Internet Freedom Act that eliminated them.

But even if all three voted for the bill, that would leave a 50-50 split, with Vice President Mike Pence almost certain to break the tie by voting against it since the President has been advised by OMB to veto the bill.

Evan Greer, deputy director of FFTF, says those three Republicans would at least be a start.

Related: CBO Scores Cost of Net Neutrality Bill As Negligible

"If all three came out publicly, it could put pressure on others to join as well," Greer said. "Many moderate House members lost their elections, but there are still moderates in the Senate who could cross the aisle on this."

Greer also points out that Democrats could make the legislation an appropriations issue, as Hill paper Politico has reported. "[T]hen it's not a matter of whether GOP Senators are excited to vote for it, but more a question of whether it's the hill they want to die on, given that the party is out of sync with the overwhelming majority of GOP voters," she said. 

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.