Senate CRA Vote Gets D.C. Buzzing

Washington policymakers and watchers were lining up to weigh in after the Senate voted to restore net neutrality rules eliminated by a Republican-led FCC last December.

The Senate voted Wednesday (May 16) to restore rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization and to do so under a Title II regulatory regime.

“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," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, whose FCC rolled back the regs.

“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.

“Moreover, contrary to the scare tactics employed by Senate Democrats, which earned three Pinocchios from the Washington Post’s fact-checker, our light-touch approach will deliver better, faster, and cheaper Internet access and more broadband competition to the American people—something that millions of consumers desperately want and something that should be a top priority."

"At the FCC, we are focused on policies that will deliver those results. We are cutting billions of dollars’

worth of red tape that has been slowing broadband deployment," said FCC Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr, one of the three Republicans who voted for the rule rollback. "We are freeing up more spectrum for next-gen wireless broadband than any other country in the world. And we are promoting the deployment of broadband infrastructure from big cities to small towns.

"These policies—not multi-Pinocchio claims about the end of the Internet that are being promoted in service of partisan politics—are the path to delivering more broadband for more Americans. The FCC will continue the serious work we are doing to put these policies in place."

The Pinocchio comments were a reference to Washington Post fact checkers giving three Pinocchio's for a Democrat claim that eliminating the net neutrality rules would slow the internet.

“Today, Senators on a bipartisan basis delivered passionate speeches about the importance of the internet and ensuring that consumers continue to enjoy an open and unfettered online experience," said NCTA-The Internet & Television Association in a statement. "We couldn’t agree more which is why for years we have called on Members of Congress to craft bipartisan legislation that would finally and permanently enshrine net neutrality protections into law. Instead, the U.S. Senate has narrowly approved a largely symbolic measure that only prolongs this decade long controversy and does not provide consumers any assurances. It is also remarkable that a significant consequence of the CRA may be to weaken privacy protections at a time when consumers are
growing more worried about privacy and feel government is not doing enough to protect them. The importance of formulating sound internet policy demands that legislators of both parties sit down and work in earnest to craft enduring legislation, and we stand ready to help in this endeavor.”

"Crafting reasonable, workable, and durable open Internet rules can be done, but it takes a serious effort.

Senate Joint Resolution 52, which will not be enacted, is not it," said American Cable Association President Matt Polka. "The members of the American Cable Association believe it is time for all sides of this debate to come together to move open Internet legislation that once and for all establishes permanent rules prohibiting blocking and throttling and are applicable not just to ISPs but to all participants in the Internet-based economy."

“This vote throws into reverse our shared goal of maintaining an open, thriving internet," said USTelecom President Jonathan Spalter. "Consumers want permanent, comprehensive online protections, not half measures or election year posturing from our representatives in Congress. While we are disappointed by this vote, broadband providers remain committed to safeguarding the digital lives of consumers and advancing bipartisan legislation that codifies net neutrality principles across the online world.”

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, is currently offering up a bill that would prohibit blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization, the last being a bridge too far for some ISPS, at least if recent past is prologue.

After the vote, Thune said: “This vote was about politics, not protecting net neutrality. Unfortunately, it’s only going to delay Senate Democrats from coming to the table and negotiating bipartisan net neutrality legislation."

“ITTA is disappointed that the United States Senate today passed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would reinstate Title II regulation on the Internet," said Genny Morelli, president of the ISP association. "ITTA urges the House of Representatives to reject the Senate’s action, which perpetuates

the uncertainty that has plagued the Internet ecosystem for too many years, so that the important work of legislating a permanent framework can begin in earnest.”

"Today’s CRA vote will saddle the internet with Depression-era Title II regulations, and is an unfortunate and unnecessary misstep that will do nothing to establish permanent net neutrality protections," said Broadband for America.

The following quote can be attributed to Sarah Morris, Director of Open Internet Policy at New America’s Open Technology Institute:

"What we saw today demonstrates that Senate Democrats are only interested in scoring political points, not coming to the table for good-faith negotiations. Consumers deserve certainty and that’s why we renew our call for a bipartisan, permanent, legislative solution to solve this important issue once and for all," said Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Marsha Blackburn (D-Tenn.), chairmen of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and Communications Subcommittee, respectively.

Related: High Noon for Net Neutrality CRA

Now that the CRA has passed the Senate, it will have to pass in the House, where Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on the speaker to schedule a vote and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), who is motormanning the CRA three said he would launch a discharge petition to force a vote.

There were plenty lined up to praise the vote as well.

“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," asid FCC Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who voted against the rule rollback. "The FCC's net neutrality repeal gave broadband providers extraordinary new powers to block websites, throttle services and play favorites when it comes to online content. This put the FCC on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American people. Today’s vote is a sign that the fight for internet freedom is far from over. I’ll keep raising a ruckus to support net neutrality and I hope others will too.”

"Today the Senate puts us one step closer towards preserving the strong FCC Net Neutrality rules which empowered Latinos and secured our right to access the Internet without discrimination," said Carmen Scurato,

VP and general counsel of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. "This is a historic moment in the fight to preserve Net Neutrality. We urge the House of Representatives to move this CRA forward and do their part to protect Latinos and other consumers in need of equal access online."

“I congratulate the Senate on taking a giant step to restore real net neutrality back to the American people,”

said House Energy and Commerce ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.). “Beltway insiders and special interests said that we would never get this far, but ultimately the American people understand how important net neutrality is. Now the public will hold those of us in the House accountable for whether we support net neutrality or not. That’s why I encourage my colleagues in the House to listen to the American people, force a vote on Ranking Member Doyle’s resolution, and send it to the President’s desk.”

“By surpassing expectations in the Senate, net neutrality saving efforts have gained tremendous momentum heading into the House of Representatives," said INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering. "This is a win for young Americans who want to start a business and consumers who have cut the cord and love the streaming revolution.

"This is a historic victory for the free and open Internet, and a major step forward for the future of free expression and democracy," said Evan Greer, Fight for the Future deputy director. "But we’re just getting started. "The FCC has announced that net neutrality protections will officially end on June 11th. The Internet

will surely light up in protest on that day, but the fight will continue long after that. The ISPs are pushing for bad legislation that kneecaps net neutrality while claiming to save it. Internet users will not be fooled.

“This is the first step forward in restoring net neutrality," said Ronald Newman, director of strategic initiatives for the American Civil Liberties Union. "The public today understands that the free flow of information online is crucial to protecting free speech and maintaining space for political movements that safeguard our constitutional rights. We owe this win to the over 400,000 ACLU activists and hundreds of thousands of other activists across the country who are fighting for a free and open internet. With the Senate voting to reverse the FCC’s decision, the House is on notice. It's time for the House to act.”

"Having worked for 40 years promoting First Amendment values in media and telecommunications industries, I welcome today's vote as protecting free speech and democratic debate on the Internet," said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, veteran public interest attorney and Benton senior counselor at Georgetown University Law Center.

"Despite the influence from big cable and telecommunications companies who have poured oceans of money in their attempt to kill net neutrality rules, the Senate stood on the side of the American people in voting to pass this resolution," said Michael Copps, special advisor to Common Cause and former Democratic FCC chairman.

The Senate stood on the side of free speech, civic engagement, equal opportunity, and innovation. Ultimately, the Senate stood on the right side of American history.

“Today's Senate vote reflects what we've been hearing from millions of Americans for months: the desire for strong net neutrality rules that protect an open internet, free expression, small businesses, and the entire internet economy," said Sarah Morris of the Open Technology Institute. "OTI applauds the senators who listened to the outpouring of support for the net neutrality rules and took this vital step toward a restoration of strong and enforceable net neutrality rules."

Then there were those that took a middle ground tone, though pushing for the bipartisan legislation that has been Republicans' talking point.

“We all agree that a free and open Internet is critical for our national competitiveness," said Margaret McCarthy, executive director of Mobile Future. "Rather than going another round in the partisan fight over the CRA, Congress should build on this consensus and ensure the continued success of America’s mobile broadband economy through a permanent legislative solution. Consumers, innovators, and network operators alike can benefit from comprehensive legislation that addresses the challenges of the digital age.”

John Eggerton

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.