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Startups Rally for Net Neutrality as Democrats Gear Up for Vote

Visitors of sites like Reddit, Etsy, Tumblr, Tinder and Match.com were greeted by a bright red splash page Wednesday that implored them to take action and contact their lawmakers to speak out for net neutrality. This latest day of action coincided with a renewed push by congressional Democrats to reinstate the FCC’s Open Internet Rules.

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats filed paperwork to trigger a vote on a resolution to restore the FCC’s net neutrality rules. So far, all 49 members of the Democratic caucus are in favor of the resolution, along with one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, and the Senate’s GOP leadership will have until June 12 to bring a vote to the floor.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), appearing at a press conference with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and a number of other Democrats, said that he believed passage of the resolution in the Senate would “supercharge the effort in the House.” He acknowledged that the vote would “allow senators to show once and for all where everyone stands.”

The vote is largely a way to get lawmakers on the record about net neutrality in advance of the midterm elections. Even if it passes, it will have to also secure approval from the House, as well as the signature of President Trump, who has given all indications of favoring the FCC’s repeal.

But those uncertain prospects didn’t stop net neutrality advocates from once again engaging their supporters. The latest online action, dubbed the “Red Alert,” was organized by Fight for the Future, Demand Progress and Free Press Action, a coalition that had also organized previous online campaigns against the repeal of net neutrality. It was joined by non-profits like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Common Cause and Firefox maker Mozilla, as well as a range of tech startups and media companies including Vimeo, Funny Or Die, Sonos and Pornhub.

The action is one of a number of last-ditch efforts to reinstate net neutrality after the current FCC repealed the Open Internet Order in December. Democrats are using the Congressional Review Act, which is designed to give lawmakers a chance to review federal regulations, to force a floor vote to restore net neutrality.

Separately, net neutrality supporters are looking to fight the repeal in the courts. Attorneys general from 21 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit in January, and some tech companies filed their own lawsuit in March.

The Open Internet order was passed by the FCC in 2015, and barred internet and wireless service providers from slowing down or otherwise discriminating against online services. The goal of these rules was to make sure that service providers wouldn’t give preferred access to their own streaming services, or charge competing streaming services extra for faster access to consumers’ homes. The FCC rescinded that order in December under new Republican leadership.

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