Bill protecting Obama-era net neutrality rules advances in the Senate

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate voted 52 to 47 to advance a bill that would reverse the Federal Communications Commission decision in December to repeal landmark 2015 net neutrality rules.

The margin was larger than expected with three Republicans voting with 47 Democrats and two independents. Many politicians are convinced the issue will help motivate younger people to vote in the 2018 congressional elections. A final vote by the Senate was expected later on Wednesday.

The measure still faces an uphill battle. It is not clear if the U.S. House of Representatives will vote at all on the measure, while the White House has said it opposed repealing the December FCC order.

The FCC repealed rules set under Democratic President Barack Obama that barred internet service providers from blocking or slowing access to content or charging consumers more for certain content.

Last week, the FCC said the net neutrality rules would expire on June 11 and that the new regulations approved in December, handing providers broad new power over how consumers can access the internet, would take effect.

The 2015 rules were intended to ensure a free and open internet, give consumers equal access to Web content and bar broadband service providers from favoring their own material or others’.

The new rules require internet providers to tell consumers whether they will block or slow content or offer paid “fast lanes.”

The revised rules were a win for internet service providers, whose practices faced significant government oversight and FCC investigations under the 2015 order. But the new rules are opposed by internet firms like Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc.

Comcast Corp, Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc have pledged to not block or discriminate against legal content after the net neutrality rules expire. A group of 22 states led by New York and others have sued the FCC over the repeal.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)