Fight for net neutrality?

Save the Internet passes the House, heads to the Senate

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Will the 'Save the Internet' Act save net neutrality?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

Democrats want to save the internet with their - well - Save the Internet Act. It is hoped that they will be able to restore net neutrality, after it was ended by the Trump administration.

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has passed the Act, but it is making its way to the GOP-controlled Senate. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, has already promised it will be "dead on arrival".

But is there life after death for net neutrality?

The Claim

Digital rights groups are celebrating victory after the House passed the Save the Internet Act, Common Dreams reports.

The bill passed in a 232-190 vote - with just one Republican joining the Democrats in support.

Craig Aaron, president of Free Press, argues that the victory in the House shows "how important and popular" net neutrality is.

He said: "Today's vote is a tremendous victory for the millions of people across the country who’ve been calling, writing, tweeting and visiting their members of Congress to urge them to fight for a free and open internet.

"The energy behind this bill came from the grassroots, not big companies, but there were plenty of industry lobbyists trying to sink it. The overwhelming show of support for the Save the Internet Act proves how important and popular net neutrality has become."

Aaron added that the Senate should not block a vote on the bill. He said it would be "wrong, politically short-sighted and an underestimation of the internet's readiness to mobilise and fight for net neutrality."

The Counterclaim

However, Diginomica's Jerry Bowles argues that the Democrats cannot save the internet with the bill.

He warns: "Before you break out the fireworks and champagne, the Bill now goes to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already pronounced it “dead on arrival".

"Even if - by some unlikely chance the bill were to survive - President Trump has already pledged to veto it."

Bowles says that it will likely be a 2020 election issue for the Democrats, because there will be no change until then.

He argues: "With the 2020 election cycle already well underway and the undercurrent of rancor that has bogged down both the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, the possibility of passing important bipartisan legislation into law is somewhere between nil and nada."

The Facts

In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reclassified internet access as a common carrier telecommunications service - in other words, the information service became a public utility.

This meant that internet service providers (ISPs) should have treated all websites and services the same - with the FCC being able to impose a ban on ISPs blocking or throttling data from legitimate websites and apps, and from being paid to prioritise traffic.

Net neutrality was originally born out of protest. When then-FCC chairman Tom Wheeler released a plan that would have allowed big companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to discriminate online and create pay-to-play fast lanes, the agency was inundated with four million comments and activists turning up at their door, at their Washington D.C. offices, to protest.

The protests were fruitful and net neutrality was born. However, with a new administration two years later, it was under threat once again.

In 2017, the Republican-led FCC voted to repeal the regulations - and on June 12, 2018, it was officially stopped.

The fight for net neutrality continues, but it remains dead for the time being under the Republicans.

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