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Financial Times / Biz - Money

Senate votes in favour of retaining net neutrality

Democrats scored a surprise Senate victory on net neutrality on Wednesday, voting to block a move by Trump-appointed regulators to scrap rules meant to ensure all internet services are treated equally.

The Democratic push, however, is now expected to run aground in the House of Representatives.

It passed the Senate thanks to three Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote with Democrats, but similar defections are less likely in the more conservative House.

Democrats are seeking to undo a December move by the Federal Communications Commission — where Donald Trump’s appointees are now in the majority — to officially scrap net neutrality rules introduced under Barack Obama in 2015.

The rules prohibited US broadband providers from favouring some bits that flow through their networks over others, banning the introduction of paid-for “fast lanes” and the throttling of services from businesses with which they might compete.

Ajit Pai, the Trump appointee who chairs the FCC, said last year that eliminating the rules would return the internet to “the light touch regulation” that had existed before 2015.

The Senate voted by 52 to 47 to reinstate the net neutrality regulations after Democrats forced a vote using a once-obscure tool known as the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn recent regulatory moves with a majority vote.

The three Republicans who joined the 49 Senate Democrats were Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and John Kennedy of Louisiana.

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