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Even if the repeal had passed the Senate, President Obama had promised to veto it

After months of threats and debating, the Republican leadership in Congress moved forward with plans to block the U.S. Federal Communication Commission (FCC) from rolling out basic net neutrality rules, which prevent landline internet carriers from throttling the user's connection, charging on a per website basis, or engaging in other tactics designed to slow some sites' load times and speed others' up.

I. Republicans Push for Net Neutrality Ban

As Republicans control the House of Representatives, the key battleground in the repeal effort would be the Senate.   Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) sponsored the repeal resolution, S.J. Res. 6.

Sen. Hutchinson took a hard stance, arguing that ISPs should be allowed to charge users on a per-site basis and throttle as they wish, without regulation.  She comments, "The internet and technology have produced more jobs in this country than just about any other sector.  It has been the cradle of innovation, it does not have a problem, and it does not need fixing."

Others in her party took a softer approach.  Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) wrote a "dear colleague" letter to her fellow Republicans.  In it she wrote that she felt that net neutrality regulation was necessary to protect consumer abuse.  But she argued the proper place for it was through the Senate, not the FCC.

But if "pro-net neutrality" Republicans senators had an alternative plan they failed to propose it in concrete form.  And it was unclear when or if a replacement to the current rules would be drafted if repeal was pass -- or for that matter whether a net neutrality bill could past muster in the House and Senate given many Republicans absolute opposition to anything standing in the way of ISPs' efforts to increase profits by cutting back and restructuring regional internet services.

The hardline Republicans like Sen. Hutchinson who flatly opposed any regulation argued that regulation would kill jobs.  Sen. Hutchinson pointed to industry studies that claimed net neutrality regulation would slow infrastructure deployment, and by proxy reduce jobs.

The Republican-controlled House had passed a net neutrality repeal measure in February 2011.

President Obama threatened to veto S.J. Res. 6

II. Democrats Warn That Repeal Would Kill Innovation, Free Speech

The repeal had Democratic President Barack Obama concerned enough that he threatened to veto the bill [PDF] if it should pass, with his office writing in a release, "If the President is presented with S.J. Res. 6, which would not safeguard the free and open Internet, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the Resolution."

But this dramatic game of political theater end rather mundanely as the Democratic majority in the Senate rallied together in opposition of the resolution.  Sen. John "Jay" Rockefeller IV, the great-grandson of famous oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, led the opposition commenting:
There's still 53 of us, and if we stay together we'll win.  I think we're going to prevail.  Even if they don't, they'll still have the backing of the White House, which has already threatened to veto the resolution, should it survive past the Senate floor. It would be ill-advised to threaten the very foundations of innovation in the Internet economy and the democratic spirit that has made the Internet a force for social progress around the world.

III. Wednesday's Fiery Debate

Here's some video coverage of Wednesday's debate, which preceded a vote:

Democratic Perspective (~3 min)

Republican perspective (~17 min, but starts off strong)

IV. Democrats Emerge Triumphant

Sen. Rockefeller's stand paid off.  The final vote was tallied yesterday and showed all 52 Democrats voting opposing the measure, and all 46 Republicans voting in favor of the measure.  The bill was thus defeated, clearing the way for the FCC's new net neutrality rules to go into effect next week.  

Two senators did not vote -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senator Dan Inouye (D-Haw.).  It appears that Sen. Inouye was at an event in Washington, D.C. honoring a Japanese veteran of World War II.  It was unclear why John McCain -- who had previously led the charge against net neutrality -- did not vote.

V. Legal Challenges Remain

The rejection of the repeal resolution now leaves the various lawsuits against the rules as the only thing standing in their way.  Interestingly, advocacy groups have also opposed the rules claiming they do not go far enough, and unfairly exempt mobile devices from their provisions.  Several groups have pursued legal action.

The Media Access Project, who had been suing on the grounds of the lax approach to mobile regulation, dropped its legal action after it saw its case assigned to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Policy Director Andrew Jay Schwartzman explained that his organization feared a hostile atmosphere in that particular court would kill the case.  He comments, "The D.C. Circuit Court is a very hostile forum.  [It would be a] very close case."

That leaves The Free Press, who is suing on similar grounds.  Strangely The Free Press's President and CEO Craig Aaron -- leading the suit against the rules -- cheered the Democratic success in block their repeal in the Senate.  He comments, "The Senate sent a strong signal today to would-be gatekeepers that the free and open internet needs to stay that way.  The American public doesn't want phone and cable companies undercutting competition, deciding which websites will work or censoring what people can do online."

Most public advocacy groups lauded the vote, while saying the rules still should be extended farther.  Among them is the American Civil Liberties Union.  In a post entitled "It Was Close, But We Won: Viva Net Neutrality!" ACLU Washington, D.C. staffer Sandra Fulton writes:
Though the FCC’s rules are not great, they do offer some protections for net neutrality on the wired Internet and overturning them would have been a huge setback for free speech on the web. During debate on the Senate floor yesterday supporters of the resolution railed against government regulation while opponents defended the rules saying they were necessary to maintain the openness and innovation that has allowed the Internet to thrive.

On the other side of the spectrum, there's also a suit from Verizon Wireless, the joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD).  It's hard to understand why Verizon decided to sue the FCC, given that the Commission's proposal closely mirrors that which a Verizon - Google, Inc. (GOOGpact proposed in Aug. 2010.  The rules offer virtually no regulation on mobile internet service providers -- just as Verizon requested.

Verizon's lawsuit will be heard in the Spring or Summer.  In the meantime Verizon could request in court that the rules be suspended pending the outcome of the lawsuit.  The FCC has already taken a preemptive strike, moving to dismiss Verizon's lawsuit on legal technicalities.

The Democratic-majority FCC under the Obama administration has been quite busy.  It is currently in the process of finalizing a spectrum auction, an effort carriers laud but some TV broadcaster loathe.  It's also assisting the U.S. Department of Justice in its case against AT&T, Inc. (T) who is trying to engulf T-Mobile USA -- a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG (ETR:DTE) -- a move which would grant it a virtual monopoly on 3G GSM technology in the U.S.

Sources: Senate, The White House, Engadget, ACLU

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By seraphim1982 on 11/11/2011 10:38:30 AM , Rating: 3
Obviously, you haven't seen the prices and quality of service in other countries....

By Zaranthos on 11/11/2011 10:40:18 AM , Rating: 1
Obviously you don't realize this country is massively larger with much more remote areas?

By yomamafor1 on 11/11/2011 12:15:13 PM , Rating: 2
I didn't know US was larger than Russia, and with more remote spaces.

By gladiatorua on 11/11/2011 1:46:33 PM , Rating: 2
Russia is not very good example. It has a lot of problems due to its size, poor management and corruption.
US on the other hand has slightly different problem. F*cking government-pushed monopolies. You already have unreasonable prices for internet and wireless communications. Do you want to be screwed even more?
This kind of regulation restricts corporations and not users. Corporations that instead of spending money to upgrade the infrastructure, limit users and rise prices. And without competition they can get away with it.
Do you really want to pay more for less?

By ekv on 11/12/2011 4:57:50 AM , Rating: 2
It has a lot of problems due to its size, poor management and corruption.
And the US doesn't have anything like that. Nothing like Solyndra or Fast-and-Furious here, or is there?

You complain about "government-pushed monopolies" -- which I disagree with you about -- but if Net Neutrality pushes the corporation(s) out of controlling the infrastructure they build and operate, then who's in charge? The gov't. Talk about straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.
And without competition they can get away with it.
We agree on this. My solution however, is less gov't -- though strictly enforcing contractual law, of course. I want more competition. More businesses and corporations in this market will lower costs to consumers and ultimately lead to greater innovation and better products. If you take away incentive to build and operate you will get less competition.

By shin0bi272 on 11/14/2011 11:01:41 AM , Rating: 2
what they were saying what in reply to someone else who said that government run internet was great in other countries and they gave an example of a country with government run internet that wasnt working.

your argument is about our government corruption in other areas and is thus invalid. You then say that you disagree with them on government pushed monopolies but then admit that if net neutrality passes the government will basically own the internet. You contradict yourself (in very poor english) good sir.

You say you want more competition? Yet you support the government controlling the internet... hypocritesayswhat?

If you dont like the crap your ISP is doing MOVE TO ANOTHER ONE! No it wont be another cable company but there's dsl, satellite, dialup, and even 3g/4g cellphone internet (with an unlimited data plan you have no complaints since 4g is faster than even my cable internet).

By ekv on 11/14/2011 4:03:52 PM , Rating: 2
your argument is about our government corruption in other areas and is thus invalid.
Thank you for your reply. No, my comment about government corruption is more about the tendency for Men to be corrupt. Larger gov't means more Men, or more people if you prefer, and hence the greater likelihood of corruption. That of course does not take into account the kind of people working for the gov't. It could be that a miracle could occur and we would have totally righteous people working for the gov't and thus no corruption. That would be nice. Not likely though and certainly is not the case today.
You then say that you disagree with them on government pushed monopolies but then admit that if net neutrality passes the government will basically own the internet.
I disagree that we have gov't pushed monopolies. It is an arguable point which is why I only mentioned it in passing. So I think you're missing the main thrust of my argument. The gov't ought not be in the business of picking winners and losers. Hence a gov't pushed monopoly, whether it exists or not, ought not be in the first place. Again, I want more competition.

I am aware that a large corp can dominate to the point of knocking out the competition completely. Case in point, Microsoft. Of course, market forces and bureaucratic inertia seemed to have caught up with Microsoft to the extent that Apple and Google, while not direct rivals per se, offer an ecosystem (as it were) that competes more than effectively with Microsoft. So, in this case, where's the monopoly. Yes, a monopoly may have existed for some time, but again, market forces seem to have made the correction for us. If there were gov't force behind Microsoft, then market forces would have been squashed and/or disallowed. That is what I argue against.
You contradict yourself (in very poor english) good sir.
I disagree and would point out that "what they were saying what in reply to someone else who said that" is absolutely no better English than anything I've put down, ever. Please lead by example. If you have a specific criticism point it out.
Yet you support the government controlling the internet
Where did I say this? I don't think I've said anything like that. For starters, it would be against my principles as one who leans towards a small gov't (arch) conservative philosophy. I believe that Net Neutrality, as espoused by the current administration, is bent on ultimately taking over control of the Internet. No that is not tin-foil-hat thinking. It is consistent with how Obama has treated the auto industry, the health-care industry, etc.
If you dont like the crap your ISP is doing MOVE TO ANOTHER ONE!
We agree!

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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