Senate lawmakers vote to preserve net neutrality, but House remains a hurdle
- The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to save net neutrality rules established by the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) 2015 Open Internet Order (the full history of net neutrality is much more complicated), which were set to end in June following a December repeal by the agency, Business Insider reports.
- The measure to save the rules was voted on under the Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress the power to overturn new regulations from federal agencies within 60 days of implementation, and it ultimately had the support of Republicans Susan Collins (Maine), John Kennedy (La.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).
- While the vote is a victory for net neutrality supporters, the measure faces a larger hurdle to pass the House.
The FCC decision to repeal net neutrality raised concerns in K-12 regarding access to digital resources. Chief among them was the possibility that schools could find themselves in a situation where a service provider blocks an app, throttles speeds on resources from rival providers, or provides faster speeds to companies that pay more. Simply put, the concern is that an established company like Pearson or McGraw-Hill could likely afford to pay a premium for better content delivery as opposed to a competing startup, or that a provider owned by the likes of AT&T, Verizon or Comcast would be given priority speed over a competitor.
This would ultimately leave administrators' hands tied when making purchasing and implementation decisions on digital resources.
The driving argument for repeal from Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has been that the rules hindered innovation, investment and expansion by service providers. But consumer advocates and many major tech companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon and Netflix have expressed support for net neutrality — though Google (which owns YouTube), Amazon and Netflix also all have skin in the game as content providers. As a result, their bottom line could be harmed if, say, a net neutrality repeal allowed Verizon or Comcast to throttle speeds on that rival content or charge a premium for higher speeds for people using those services.
K-12's FCC-related concerns also still include the possibility that changes might be made to the federal E-Rate program, which has received both criticism and praise from Pai. That considered, should the move to preserve net neutrality make it through the House, it will be one less concern for administrators in the digital space.
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