On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate will vote on whether or not to repeal an anti-net neutrality measure passed in December by the Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission. Whether or not the resolution passes, the session will be an important moment in the fight for an open internet, so you're probably wondering how to watch the net neutrality vote.
The vote to proceed with the resolution passed at noon, and the final vote will take place at 3 p.m. ET. You can watch it on C-SPAN. The measure to keep net neutrality in place is expected to pass: It needs a simple majority, which currently means just 50 votes because Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has temporarily left Congress to undergo cancer treatment. All 49 Democratic senators and one Republican senator, Susan Collins from Maine, have said that they will vote in favor of the resolution.
If it does pass the Senate, it then will move to the House and probably have much less luck there, according to CNN. President Donald Trump would also eventually need to sign the bill (unless the measure could win over enough support to overturn a presidential veto), which he probably would not do.
But even if the resolution dies after Wednesday, its passage in the Senate could still act as an important symbolic victory. That's how Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey — who sponsored the legislation — sees it.
"By passing my CRA resolution to put net neutrality back on the books, we can send a clear message to American families that we support them, not the special interest agenda of President Trump and his broadband baron allies," said Sen. Markey on Monday. "May 16 will be the most important vote for the internet in the history of the Senate, and I call on my Republicans colleagues to join this movement and stand on the right side of digital history."
Markey's bill is made possible by the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to repeal actions taken by federal administrative agencies for 60 days after they take effect. The measure he's trying to undo is itself a repeal: In December, the FCC nullified Obama-era rules meant to protect net neutrality that classified broadband internet as a telecommunications service. If Markey's resolution is successful, the FCC will have to re-adopt those old rules.
When internet is considered to be a telecommunications service, it needs to be treated like a public utility. Under the Obama-era rules, internet service providers weren't allowed to block websites or charge customers more for faster broadband speed. The classification also provided some broader, if vague, protections. Title II of the U.S. Code stipulates that "all charges, practices, classifications, and regulations for and in connection with such communication service, shall be just and reasonable."
Ajit Pai, head of the FCC, spearheaded the commission's efforts to deregulate broadband. He's argued that the success of the internet so far "is due in part to regulatory restraint" and that its recent Title II classification has discouraged "investment in building and maintaining high-speed networks."
But that's not how most of the public sees it: Net neutrality has wide bipartisan support. An April study from the University of Maryland found that 86 percent of the country opposes the FCC's deregulatory efforts, including 90 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans.
"The internet should be kept free and open like our highways, accessible and affordable to every American, regardless of ability to pay," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in a statement this week. "A vote against this resolution will be a vote to protect large corporations and special interests, leaving the American public to pay the price."
If Markey's resolution does pass the Senate but does not move forward in the House, the FCC's deregulation will occur as planned. The Obama-era protections will officially be repealed on June 11.