Sides line up to cheer and jeer net-neutrality vote

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," said FCC chairman Ajit Pai, whose FCC rolled back the regs. "But ultimately, I'm confident that their effort to reinstate heavy-handed government regulation of the Internet will fail.

“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," Pai added. "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," he concluded.

"At the FCC, we are focused on policies that will deliver those results," said FCC Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr, one of the three Republicans who voted for the rule rollback. "We are cutting billions of dollars’ worth of red tape that has been slowing broadband deployment. 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," Carr continued. "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 Pinocchios for the Democrats' 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," NCTA added. "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," said American Cable Association president Matt Polka. "Senate Joint Resolution 52, which will not be enacted, is not it.

"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," Polka added.

“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, has offered 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."

Genny Morelli, president of the ISP association ITTA said: “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. 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.”

Broadband for America said, "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."

Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and Marsha Blackburn (D-Tenn.), chairman of the Communications Subcommittee, said: "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."

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