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House Republican sides with Democrats to save net neutrality

Rep. Mike Coffman from Colorado is the first. Will other Republicans in the House join in?

Rep. Mike Coffman

Rep. Mike Coffman

Bill Clark/Getty Images

Rep. Mike Coffman from Colorado has become the first Republican in the House to join Democrats in the effort to save the Obama-era 2015 net neutrality rules.

On Tuesday, Coffman told the website Politico that he plans to support the Congressional Review Act resolution drafted by Democrats, which aims to save rules the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission rolled back in December. The rules, which banned internet service providers from blocking, slowing down or charging online companies extra to access users faster, officially came off the books last month.

The CRA would give Congress the ability to roll back recently adopted regulations and would void the repeal of the rules, which were adopted in 2015 under President Barack Obama's FCC. In May, the Senate passed a CRA resolution to save the rules. All 49 Democrats in the Senate supported the effort, and three Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, John Kennedy of Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, crossed party lines to support the measure.

The passage of the CRA in the Senate was a big win for net neutrality advocates, but the effort still faces an uphill battle in the 435-member House of Representatives, where a large number of Republicans are needed to get the measure passed. Getting the first Republican on board is seen as an important benchmark, as it may convince other Republicans to join the effort. The House has until the end of the year to force a vote on the CRA.

All House Democrats have already gotten behind the CRA. With Coffman on board, the resolution has 177 of the 218 signatures it needs.

Coffman told Politico that though he'd prefer a legislative solution to codify net neutrality rules, "the CRA is better than nothing."

Democrats have been unwilling to consider GOP efforts to pass legislation to establish permanent net neutrality rules. They claim this legislation would be weaker than the 2015 rules. Instead, they've focused on the CRA.

Coffman was one of the few Republicans who opposed the FCC's repeal of the 2015 rules in December. He also introduced legislation Tuesday that would make the FCC's "bright line" rules for net neutrality into law.  He told Politico he sees the CRA as a way to put more pressure on Congress to pass a permanent fix.

His bill, called the 21st Century Internet Act, would reimpose the main rules established under the 2015 regulations, including the no blocking or throttling rules, as well as a ban on paid prioritization. Coffman's bill would also prevent internet service providers from charging smaller companies fees when they hand off traffic.  

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