Senate Democrats on Nov. 10 turned back a Republican attempt to repeal federal rules designed to prevent internet service providers from discriminating against those who send content and other services over their networks.
Republicans argued that “net neutrality” rules announced by the Federal Communications Commission last December were another example of federal regulatory overreach that would stifle internet investment and innovation.
But Democrats, and the White House in a veto threat, said repealing the FCC rules would imperil openness and freedom on the internet. “It would be ill-advised to threaten the very foundations of innovation in the internet economy and the democratic spirit that has made the internet a force for social progress around the world,” the White House said.
The vote against taking up the bill, along party lines, was 52-46.
The net-neutrality rules, approved last December by a 3-2 vote with the three FCC Democrats in favor and the two Republicans opposed, tried to find a middle ground between phone and cable companies desiring more control over their networks and the content providers wanting unfettered access to the internet.
The rules bar service providers from favoring or discriminating against internet content and services, including online calling services such as Skype and web video services such as Netflix, that could compete with their core operations. They require broadband providers to let subscribers access all legal online content and prohibit wireless carriers from blocking access to any websites or competing services.
The new rules also require carriers to disclose their network management practices. But they give wireless companies more leeway to manage data traffic, because wireless systems have more bandwidth constraints than wired networks.
Some ed-tech advocacy groups worry the new rules, which go into effect Nov. 20, don’t go far enough in protecting schools and other consumers.