The U.S. Senate came out in full-force on Wednesday, voting to protect net neutrality regulations that prevent internet service providers from blocking or slowing access to websites, or charging more for faster access to specific content.
In a symbolic vote of 52 to 47, senators voiced their opposition to the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) decision to roll back net neutrality regulations, the so-called internet fairness rules put in place under the Obama administration.
While the majority of senators that voted to keep net neutrality rules were Democrats, three Republican senators, including Susan Collins of Maine, John Kennedy of Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, joined the 49 Democrats in favor of upholding the regulations.
The current FCC, led by Republican Chairman Ajit Pai, proposed to abolish net neutrality provisions in December because he believes the regulations are "heavy-handed." Pai has expressed the desire to eliminate regulatory power over internet providers to allow for the market to regulate itself.
Without net neutrality rules, telecom providers could potentially "throttle" traffic from other content providers, such as Google and Facebook. However, under Pai's proposal, broadband companies would have to disclose to users how they handle web traffic.
Current net neutrality rules, which were put in place by Democratic chairman Tom Wheeler, prohibit blocking, throttling and paid prioritization of internet traffic.
But the legislative victory in favor of upholding net neutrality rules could be short-lived. The issue will now move to the House of Representatives, in which Republicans have a greater majority. The repeal of the Obama-era net neutrality regulations is still slated to take effect on June 11.
Congressional Democrats in February introduced a measure to overturn the FCC's plan to repeal net neutrality rules. Solution providers in December expressed concern to CRN that lightly regulated broadband providers won't be motivated to deliver their software applications, cloud services, and other broadband-dependent services with the same quality of service after a potential rollback of net neutrality rules.