In an action arguably more emblematic than impactful, the Senate voted on Wednesday to overturn the repeal of net neutrality, with the goal of reinstating rules that ban internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or slowing traffic on the web. Led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the measure passed in a 52-47 vote, and now heads to the House (at press time), where chances of a passage are slim.
Enacted in 2015, net neutrality, or the Open Internet Order, is beneficial to the housing industry, according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). In December 2017, net neutrality was repealed through the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which, unlike the Open Internet Order, does not bar ISPs from blocking or slowing traffic, and becomes effective in June.
NAR is in favor of restoring the rules and has made net neutrality a priority at its meetings in Washington, D.C., this week.
“REALTORS® have strong concerns about what [this] might mean for the way consumers search for homes online and real estate is transacted,” said NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall of the repeal. “The last thing small businesses need today is additional costs and competitive disadvantages that put them on the defensive. This isn’t just an issue for Silicon Valley or large telecommunications shops; this a main street concern that affects businesses and consumers across the country.”
Democrats in the Senate, including party leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), along with a handful of Republicans, were able to force a vote via a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, which allows Congress the opportunity to overturn recent regulation. Ahead of the passage, Sen. Markey dubbed the measure “the most important vote for the internet in the history of the Senate.”
“Restoring the FCC’s net neutrality rules will ensure that the internet will remain open and will continue to be a powerful and transformative platform of innovation and economic opportunity,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), following the passage.
“It’s disappointing that Senate Democrats forced this resolution through by a narrow margin, but ultimately, I’m confident that their effort to reinstate heavy-handed government regulation of the internet will fail,” said Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), who ordered the repeal, in a statement. “The internet was free and open before 2015, when the prior FCC buckled to political pressure from the White House and imposed utility-style regulation on the internet, and it will continue to be free and open once the Restoring Internet Freedom Order takes effect on June 11.”
Stay tuned to RISMedia more developments.