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Senators call on McConnell to bring net neutrality rules to a vote

Senators call on McConnell to bring net neutrality rules to a vote
© Greg Nash

A group of Democratic senators is calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump at CPAC foments 2022 GOP primary wars Hawley gets boisterous ovation at CPAC for Electoral College objection   Why Congress must invoke the 14th Amendment now MORE (R-Ky.) to bring legislation that would reinstate net neutrality rules to a vote in the upper chamber. 

The calls from Democrats in the Senate coincide with the one-year anniversary of the implementation of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) party-line decision to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules. 

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Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyLawmakers commemorate one-year anniversary of Arbery's killing Democrats revive debate over calling impeachment witnesses LIVE COVERAGE: Senate trial moves to closing arguments MORE (D-Mass.) in a speech on the Senate floor said he is calling for an "immediate" vote on the Save the Internet Act, which passed the House overwhelmingly earlier this year. The bill passed in a 232-190 vote, with just one Republican — Rep. Bill PoseyWilliam (Bill) Joseph PoseyStop COVID unemployment benefits for prisoners and recoup billions in fraud READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results OVERNIGHT ENERGY: 20 states sue over Trump rule limiting states from blocking pipeline projects | House Democrats add 'forever chemicals' provisions to defense bill after spiking big amendment | Lawmakers seek extension for tribes to spend stimulus money MORE (Fla.) — siding with Democrats in favor of the legislation.

"Under Sen. McConnell’s leadership, the Republicans are trying to bury this bill in a legislative graveyard," Markey said. 

Democrats in the upper and lower chambers have sought to use McConnell's "legislative graveyard" against Republicans ahead of 2020, deriding the party for blocking a host of bills passed by the House, including the net neutrality protections. McConnell has embraced the label, pledging to be a "Grim Reaper" for progressive policies.

McConnell previously described the Save the Internet Act as "dead on arrival" in the Senate.

Democrats, including Markey, Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package On The Money: Democrats scramble to save minimum wage hike | Personal incomes rise, inflation stays low after stimulus burst MORE (D-Ore.) and Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellRegulators keep close eye on Facebook's deal with Australia Video stirs emotions on Trump trial's first day Airlines warn of new furloughs without more federal aid MORE (D-Wash.) — the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee — took to the Senate floor to voice their support for a Senate vote on the bill. 

"Net neutrality may still be a term that some people aren’t familiar with, but what it’s all about is a free and open internet," Wyden said. "After you pay your internet access fee, you get to go where you want, when you want and how you want. That is what net neutrality is all about." 

The Save the Internet Act would reinstate net neutrality rules prohibiting internet service providers from interfering with web traffic. But the bill has been bashed by most Republican lawmakers, as it opens up the broadband industry to stringent regulations enforced by the FCC that the GOP has long opposed. 

Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Overnight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March 11 GOP senators slam Biden pick for health secretary: 'No meaningful experience' MORE (R-Miss.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, took to the Senate floor to reject Democrats' arguments, calling them hyperbolic.

"I’ve been amazed over the last year and a half, and even longer, at the intense overblown rhetoric about this issue of net neutrality and about the hyperbole that we heard on the floor of the Senate and elsewhere," Wicker said. "[Internet service providers] are delivering on consumers’ expectations." 

At issue is a provision in the Democrats' bill that would classify the broadband industry as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act — a designation which opens up the industry to more stringent regulations enforced by the FCC. That classification has long been a sticking point for Republicans.

"What we will not do and what this president will not sign is legislation authorizing the federal government to set internet rates in the old 1934 bell system of Title II regulation," Wicker said.

The White House two months ago came out in opposition to the bill with a threat to veto it if the legislation lands on President Trump’s desk.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, a multitude of privacy and digital rights groups are mobilizing to push McConnell to bring the Save the Internet Act to a vote. A coalition of more than 100 activist groups delivered a letter and petitions to McConnell on Tuesday afternoon, arguing that net neutrality protections are supported by 4 out of 5 Americans, according to recent polling.

"Senator McConnell, we call on you to enact the will of hundreds of millions of people who support open internet protections and broadband competition, and the millions who have taken action demanding them, by allowing Senators to vote on the Save the Internet Act," the groups wrote.  

Advocacy group Fight for the Future has been hosting an all-day net neutrality livestream with leaders and advocates discussing their support for reinstating the Obama-era rules.