The House today voted 232-190 to approve the Save The Internet Act, a bill that would fully restore both the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules and the agency’s authority to protect broadband consumers from the bad behavior of telecom giants.
The restored rules would ban ISPs from blocking, throttling, or otherwise impeding internet services they compete with. It would also require that ISPs be entirely transparent about the numerous, often anti-competitive restrictions they’re imposing on users’ internet connections.
It was a notably different outcome from the last time the House voted on net neutrality legislation—a 2006 vote when proposed legislation lost by 117 votes.
“Today, the United States House of Representatives voted to once again make net neutrality the law of the land," Democratic FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. "Their legislative effort gets right what the FCC got so wrong. When the agency rolled back net neutrality protections, it gave broadband providers the power to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content. This decision put the FCC on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public."
"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 added. "I’m proud to stand with them in that fight.”
The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised it will be “dead on arrival.” If it somehow overcomes McConnell’s promise, it then needs to avoid a veto from President Trump, whose administration this week all but promised the President wouldn’t sign the bill—despite overwhelming, bipartisan public support for restoring the rules.
In a statement attempting to justify the looming veto, the government pushed a number of data points to insist that killing net neutrality had actually been wonderful for American consumers.
“Since the new rule was adopted in 2018, consumers have benefited from a greater than 35 percent increase in average, fixed broadband download speeds, and the United States rose to sixth, from 13th in the world for those speeds,” the government said. “In 2018, fiber was also made available to more new homes than in any previous year, and capital investment by the Nation’s top six Internet service providers increased by $2.3 billion.”
But some of these data points aren’t accurate, and there’s no evidence any of these improvements had anything to do with net neutrality whatsoever.
Consumer groups took issue with the White House claim that killing net neutrality resulted in a $2.3 billion spike in industry investment, numbers that appear to have been pulled from the press releases of US Telecom, a broadband industry lobbying group.
Evan Greer, deputy director of net neutrality activist group Fight for the Future, was unimpressed by the White House’s statement.
“It looks like something some GOP operative drafted up with help from a telecom lobbyist and that I doubt Trump even looked at,” Greer said. “We all know he's unpredictable. Who knows what he will do if the massive, cross-partisan public outcry on this issue continues and leads to bipartisan upsets in both the House and Senate.”
Should the bill fail in the Senate or get blocked by Trump, there’s still a chance the FCC’s 2015 rules could be restored courtesy of an ongoing lawsuit against the FCC by 23 state attorneys general. A ruling in that case is expected within a matter of months. If that effort fails, consumers are left with a final option: voting out the lawmakers who cuddle up to big telecom.