Republican Sen. Susan Collins Joins Effort to Reverse FCC’s Net Neutrality Repeal

Susan Collins

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she will join Senate Democrats in their effort to reverse the FCC’s recent move to repeal most of the net neutrality rules.

Collins’ spokeswoman told the Bangor Daily News that she would support an effort by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) to force a Senate floor vote to reinstate rules that prohibit ISPs from blocking or throttling or engaging in so-called “paid prioritization.”

“She believes that a careful, deliberative process involving experts and the public is warranted to ensure that consumers have strong protections that guarantee consumer choice, free markets, and continued growth,” Collins’ spokeswoman said.

The Republican majority on the FCC voted last month to repeal most of the net neutrality rules, a move that was praised by internet providers who complained that regulation was an unnecessary burden. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that the Obama-era rules stifled investment. His proposal still left in place a set of transparency regulations, in which ISPs will have to disclose their traffic management practices.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Markey said he has 40 co-sponsors in his effort to force a Senate vote to overturn FCC’s action, via the Congressional Review Act. That is more than enough co-sponsors to bring the resolution to the floor.

But it’s still a long shot that the FCC’s action will be blocked. Although Democrats now have a shot at getting other GOP votes for passage, the House also would have to pass the resolution, and then it would have to be signed by President Donald Trump. The White House has given every indication that it supports the FCC’s repeal.

Senate Democrats, however, said they believe that net neutrality will emerge as a significant campaign issue, particularly among millennials.

“Millennials are energized,” Markey said. “They know the loss of net neutrality means loss of control over the internet — which is oxygen to them.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said a Senate vote would put lawmakers on the record.

“Make no mistake about it, net neutrality will be a major issue in the 2018 campaigns, and we are going to let everybody know where we stand and they stand,” Schumer said, adding, “We are going to be fighting to save a free and open internet, while Republicans are fighting to hand it over to corporations.”

An FCC spokeswoman said they had no comment.

It’s unclear when the resolution would come to the floor. The FCC’s rule change first has to be published in the Federal Register, and Markey predicted that the time frame for a vote could be in late spring or summer.

A Morning Consult poll last month showed that 45% of registered voters opposed the FCC’s action, while 21% said it was the right decision. But support for net neutrality rules fell during the year, even though it is still favored by a majority.

Some Republicans, like Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) publicly expressed opposition to the FCC’s repeal, while Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced legislation that would ban ISPs from throttling or blocking content.

The Internet Innovation Alliance, whose members include AT&T and Alcatel-Lucent, urged Congress to “look ahead and forge a bipartisan legislative solution, and make permanent open internet protections for our nation’s consumers and small businesses.” The organization supported the FCC’s repeal of the framework for the net neutrality rules, in which internet providers were classified as common carriers.

Jason Pye of FreedomWorks, the conservative group that supports repeal, said in a statement that Collins’ “claims to support a ‘careful, deliberative process involving experts’ in regards to the issue of so-called ‘Net Neutrality.’ With all due respect, Senator, how does this knee-jerk support of a far-left bill the day it reaches enough votes to secure a vote meet any of that criteria?”