On Wednesday, the Senate passed a resolution against the Federal Communication Commission’s rollback of net neutrality rules enacted under the Barack Obama administration.
Three Republicans crossed the aisle to join Democrats in opposing the FCC’s move. According to the Pew Research Center, 84 percent of American adults use the internet, making this an important issue to the public.
Net neutrality is the concept that internet service providers should treat all content equally. The principle is that there should not be different prices or availability for different types of contents. Opponents say the regulations protecting net neutrality are onerous and unnecessary.
Regardless, the Senate resolution is unlikely to change anything and will remain a symbolic gesture. The House of Representatives has no plans to vote on a similar measure. What the Senate vote will do is put senators on record as to their support for net neutrality. Democrats hope that will help sway voters in this November’s midterm elections. They point to polls like the one from the Program for Public Consultation that found widespread support for continuing Obama’s net neutrality rules.
Republicans believe the public’s fear are unfounded and that will ease once they realize that. President Donald Trump, many Republicans and FCC chair Ajit Pai think people will come to realize remaining protections will assuage voters. Although supporters don’t necessarily cleave perfectly along party lines, Republicans don’t think service providers will raise costs and throttle certain content. Pai has also argued that the FCC will still be vigilant and ding companies that harm competition or unfairly treat their customers.
The implications of the FCC’s decision is likely to be far reaching and could impact more than an individual user’s day-to-day usage. For example, the proposed ATT and Time Warner merger could allow one of the nation’s biggest wireless service providers to give preferential treatment to Time Warner content.
Millions of Americans rely on the internet in varying degrees so it is unsurprising that easing regulations has caught the public’s attention. Whether that resonates with voters remains to be seen. What is certain is that the new rules are set to take effect on June 11.