Democrats' net neutrality bill passes House

But Republicans in the Senate promise to shut it down before it gets a vote in that chamber.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
3 min read

Congressional Democrats have made restoring the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules a priority. 

Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images

House Democrats have passed a bill that would restore Obama-era net neutrality protections. But the victory is likely to be short-lived as Republicans on Capitol Hill vow to kill it in the Senate.

Democrats pushed through their Save the Internet Act in a 232 to 190 vote Wednesday. In spite of many Republicans saying they too want to see legislation to protect net neutrality, only one Republican voted for the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Tuesday that the bill Democrats are pushing through the House will be "dead on arrival" in the Senate.

But following the vote, Rep. Mike Doyle, the Pennsylvania Democrat who introduced the bill in the House, urged his Senate colleagues to take it up in their chamber.

"House approval of the Save the Internet Act is a big victory for consumers and a major step towards restoring net neutrality and making it a permanent law," he said in a statement. "Now supporters of net neutrality have to get it through the Senate."

The Save the Internet Act, or HR 1644, would restore rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015. These rules ban internet service providers from blocking or throttling access to the internet, and they also prevent ISPs from charging companies extra to deliver their online services faster to consumers. In addition, the bill would restore the FCC's authority to regulate and oversee broadband networks.

Republicans have criticized the legislation as giving the FCC too much authority to regulate ISPs.

The Republican-led FCC dismantled the rules in 2017, arguing that the net neutrality regulation was heavy-handed and discouraged investment. In the same order repealing the rules, the FCC also abdicated much of its authority for policing broadband networks, conceding it to the Federal Trade Commission.

HR 1644 was expected to easily pass the Democrat-controlled House. But it was also expected to face an uphill battle in the Senate, where Republicans hold a majority. That said, Democrats were able to pass a Congressional Review Act resolution in the Senate last year that would've repealed the FCC's order to dismantle the 2015 rules.

But now it looks like the issue won't even come to a vote in the Senate.

Even if the bill were voted on in the Senate and got enough votes to pass, it would need the signature of President Donald Trump. On Monday, the Office of Management and Budget sent out a statement saying it would advise Trump to veto the bill.

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Still, Democrats in the Senate, like Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, have vowed to continue the fight for net neutrality. Markey called on Majority Leader McConnell to bring the bill to a vote in that chamber.

"Americans of all political stripes support putting net neutrality rules back on the books," he said in a statement.  "The Senate now has a real opportunity pass the Save the Internet Act and overturn the FCC's wrongheaded decision on net neutrality." I call on Leader McConnell to bring the Save the Internet Act to the Senate floor for a vote immediately."

Jessica Rosenworcel, one of two Democrats on the FCC, emphasized that reinstating the rules is something that many Americans, regardless of their party affiliation, want.

"The momentum around the country -- from small towns to big cities, from state houses to court houses, from governors' executive actions to today's action in Congress -- is proof the American people are not done fighting for an open internet," she said in a statement.

But not everyone saw the passage of the bill in the House as positive news. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican who dismantled the Obama-era rules and has called them "heavy-handed,"  said that the bill "should not and will not become law."

"This legislation is a big-government solution in search of a problem," he said. "The Internet is free and open, while faster broadband is being deployed across America."

First published April 10, 8:48 a.m. PT.
Update, 9:27 a.m. PT: Adds comments from Doyle, Markey, Rosenworcel and Pai.