Symbolic net neutrality amendment moves through

A bipartisan budget amendment expressing support for some type of net neutrality rules was unanimously adopted during Thursday evening’s “vote-a-rama” in the Senate.

The measure was entirely ceremonial and non-binding.

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Still, the mere fact that senators of both parties could agree on the idea that there should be some rules in place to protect Internet users represents a partial bridging of the partisan split on the issue, and may offer a flicker of hope to supporters of a compromise piece of legislation.

“Passage of this amendment is a good omen that Congress can come together, on a bipartisan basis, to address uncertainty facing the Internet and consumers,” Senate Commerce Committee head John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneRepublicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names McConnell: Trump shouldn't veto defense bill over renaming Confederate bases Senate Republicans defend Trump's response on Russian bounties MORE (R-S.D.), who co-sponsored the measure along with ranking member Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA names DC headquarters after agency's first Black female engineer Mary W. Jackson NASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon Lobbying world MORE (D-Fla.), said in a statement after the vote. “This amendment underscores that Congress has a role and responsibility to set policy for protecting an open Internet.”

The amendment was included in the manager’s package, which contained dozens of amendments but was approved by voice vote during the marathon Senate session, which lasted until after 3:00 a.m. Friday morning.

The measure called for a deficit-neutral reserve fund “to preserve and protect the open Internet in a manner that provides clear and certain rules” while also protecting consumers, competition and other issues.

It had originally been more critical of the Federal Communications Commission and included a note that any Web protection “does not rely on public utiltiy regulations,” in a reference to the agency’s February rules. Thune modified the text of the amendment in order to win the support of Nelson on Thursday. 

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) had planned an alternate amendment that would have prevented the FCC from reclassifying Web providers to treat them like public utilities, but that never ended up receiving a vote.