UPDATED, 1:20 PM: The Senate narrowly passed a measure today to preserve net neutrality rules that ensure unfettered access to the internet.
Three Republicans joined with all 49 Democrats to overturn a decision by the Federal Communications Commission that unraveled Obama-era rules that prevent internet providers from slowing, blocking or charging extra fees for access. The measure moves to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, where it is expected to die.
“It’s disappointing that Senate Democrats forced this resolution through by a narrow margin,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “But ultimately, I’m confident that their effort to reinstate heavy-handed government regulation of the internet will fail.”
That may well be beside the point. Democrats will likely use a popular issue like net neutrality to rally young voters during the mid-term elections. The drumbeat is already starting on social media:
PREVIOUSLY, 11:08 AM: A Senate resolution that would restore net neutrality is expected to pass its final vote this afternoon, but overturning the FCC’s rollback of Obama-era neutrality rules is still an uphill battle, with approval by the Republican-led House and President Donald Trump necessary and unlikely.
The FCC’s “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” takes effect June 11. Earlier today, the Senate voted to open debate on the measure, with three Republicans joining Democrats to enable the final vote at 3 PM ET.
The three Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins, John Kennedy and Lisa Murkowski — added to a 52-47 vote to open debate on the measure.
The FCC’s rollback of net neutrality rules was approved in December along party lines, with the Republican-controlled FCC describing the move as “returning the regulation of Internet service providers to the bipartisan, light-touch approach that fostered rapid Internet growth, openness, and freedom for nearly 20 years.”
Opponents of the measure, including several leading tech companies and the two Democratic FCC commissioners, say the rollback will enable gatekeepers such as Comcast and Verizon to create Internet fast lanes, disrupting free expression.
Regardless of today’s final vote, the rollback could be decided via pending legal challenges in federal court.
Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.