SENIOR SENATOR MURKOWSKI SIDES WITH DEMS; MEASURE GOES TO HOUSE
Senate Democrats and three Republicans — Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins of Maine, and John Kennedy of Louisiana — voted in favor of using the Congressional Review Act to reinstate “net neutrality.”
Net neutrality is a regulatory framework that supports a heavy-handed rule that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, without favoring, slowing down, or blocking usage-intensive websites. Enacted in 2015 under Obama, it was repealed by the Trump Administration’s FCC, which said that the prior light-touch regulations that existed before Obama would lead to free market solutions to any access problems that might develop.
The vote went 52-47 to restore the Obama net neutrality rules, and will disappoint many free-market types who think such restrictions ultimately stifle innovation. Murkowski’s vote was not needed for it to pass, as it only required 50 votes, since Sen. John McCain is absent.
The ACLU of Alaska was one of the many Democrat-favoring groups involved in a last-minute push to pressure Sen. Murkowski to vote for restoring the regulation.
“Regulating the internet like a utility under a 1934 law is not the way to an open internet. I have never supported Title II regulation and do not support it today,” Murkowski said.
“I have voted to pass this resolution today so that we can reset the discussion and move beyond the politics at play here to what is really needed—lasting legislation that will provide certainty and move us beyond shifting regulatory standards that depend on who is running the FCC.
“My interest is always protecting and improving Alaska’s internet connectivity, given our unique circumstances. At stake are rural health clinics and schools that rely on the prioritization of lifesaving telemedicine services and access to educational resources. We must pass legislation that prohibits harmful practices like blocking and throttling but also allows for exceptions to support the unique needs that we have in Alaska. We must stop trying to score political points and work together to ensure an open internet with privacy protections for all consumers.”
Until this year, however, Murkowski had definitively taken the opposite stance.
SULLIVAN VOTES NO; WANTS FREE, OPEN INTERNET
Sen. Sullivan had a different take on it altogether, saying heavy-touch regulations hurt small telecommunication companies.
“I have consistently stated to Alaskans that I strongly support preserving a free and open internet – and believe that keeping the internet affordable and accessible to all consumers is an essential principle in internet governance. And because there have been recent dramatic swings from the FCC on the issue, it is critical we develop a bipartisan legislative solution,” said Senator Sullivan. “S.J. Res. 52 would re-impose regulatory burdens on Alaska’s small, rural telecommunications companies, increase regulatory uncertainty and decrease much needed investment in broadband infrastructure – particularly in rural Alaska – which is already lagging behind the rest of the country. It is estimated that the 2015 FCC Order prevented improvement and expansion of services to the 39 million Americans living in rural areas across our country.
“For the past three years, I have been focused on promoting policies that expand broadband investment, deployment, and accessibility for all Alaskans. S.J. Res. 52 would undermine these important objectives for Alaska, which is why I voted against it. Ultimately, today’s vote was more political theater than a serious attempt at a bipartisan solution,” he said.
Net neutrality rules hurt the small rural internet companies the most, like MTA or TelAlaska. But it even hurts companies like GCI, which is a relatively small company on the national scale, by making them less eager to invest in sparsely populated areas like Alaska.
The measure will now go to the House, where it will face a tough road among majority Republicans.