WASHINGTON – The Senate on Wednesday voted to reverse a Federal Communications Commission order that repeals the bulk of regulations governing internet neutrality rules.
The upper chamber approved the measure in a 52-47 vote.
All 49 Democrats voted yes as did three Republicans.
Democrats forced a floor vote with a discharge petition.
In December, the FCC approved the Restoring Internet Freedom order. Chairman Ajit Pai and the other Republican appointees voted yes. The Democratic appointees voted no.
Neutrality rules approved during the Obama administration prevented internet providers from granting paid preferences to certain platforms or blocking user content. The rules required equal access at the same price.
The new order allows internet service providers to block user content as long as they disclose the denial of service.
Proponents of the order argue that many of the old rules were unnecessary and harmful to business.
Opponents argue that neutrality repeal gives corporate platforms an advantage over individuals trying to exercise free speech.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the internet should be regulated as a public utility.
“The Democratic position is very simple: let’s treat the internet like the public good that it is,” Schumer said in a floor speech. “We don’t let water companies or phone companies discriminate against customers; we don’t restrict access to interstate highways, saying you can ride on the highway, and you can’t. We shouldn’t do that with the internet either.”
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said market competition will prevent large service providers from plundering smaller ones.
“If the big ones misbehave, guess what happens: competition will beat them down,” Lankford said in a floor speech. “And those small companies will beat them because the big companies get out of line.”
The measure is unlikely to gain traction in the House as it lacks support from Republican leaders.