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Democrats Seize on Net Neutrality as 2018 Campaign Issue

WASHINGTON — Democrats launched a long-shot effort to restore the FCC’s net neutrality rules on Tuesday, and they left little secret that the move was to make the issue a potent one in the 2018 midterm elections.

“If our Republican friends don’t wise up and join us, Democrats will be making net neutrality a major issue in the 2018 elections, and we will win,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), at an event at the Capitol where he was joined by net neutrality activists and other House and Senate members.

The FCC, in a 3-2 party line vote, decided in December to repeal many of the agency’s net neutrality rules, including those that prohibit internet providers from blocking or throttling of content or from selling “fast lanes” to companies to get speedier access to consumers. The idea behind net neutrality is that internet traffic should be treated equally.

The FCC’s action was published in the Federal Register last week, triggering a 60 legislative day window for Congress to register its disapproval as a way to reverse agency orders.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said that he introduced just such a resolution on Tuesday. Democrats have secured all 49 votes in their caucus for the resolution, and one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, said that she also supports the effort. That leaves them just one vote shy of passage.

Even if that happens, the resolution still must pass the House and be signed by President Trump. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) said that 150 Democrats have signed on to his resolution to restore the rules, but it is unclear whether he will garner enough Republican support to garner a majority.

Schumer said that Republicans will be “the ones to blame” if internet providers are able to slow their service with the net neutrality rules removed.

“When a young couple is streaming their favorite Netflix show, but it keeps lagging, who is to blame?” he said. “The American people will know that Republicans are to blame, while Democrats fought it.”

Some polls shed light on why Democrats are seizing on the issue. Last month, the market research firm GfK released a poll showing that of those who say they understand net neutrality, 72% favor it.

Net neutrality activists designated Tuesday as a “day of action” on net neutrality, with the aim of securing one more vote in the Senate. A group of 22 states and the District of Columbia also are challenging the FCC’s action in court, along with Vimeo and a number of public interest groups.

The industry group Broadband for America attacked the effort to restore the rules.

“Everyone agrees that preserving a free and open Internet for the future is an important goal, but Broadband for America does not believe that such a significant policy issue, which would affect virtually every American for generations to come, should be decided by an obscure legislative device that bypasses congressional debate and important input from the public,” the group said.

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