Digital rights groups applauded Wednesday as the U.S. House passed the Save the Internet Act (H.R. 1644), in a 232-190 vote, with just one Republican joining the Democrats in supporting the legislation.
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Net neutrality backers argue that clear rules are needed to prevent dominant internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from blocking or throttling services or websites for competitive reasons. "The court could reinstate the 2015 protections in full, uphold the FCC's repeal, or rule more narrowly on parts of the repeal", says Ryan Singel, a fellow at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society.
The net neutrality regulations were introduced under the Obama administration and later struck down by the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission in 2017. Since then, net neutrality has turned into a political football with Democrats in favor of overturning the FCC's decision, and Republicans looking to keep the status quo.
The latest legislative effort comes amid a legal showdown over the repeal. As such, it could prove an important issue in the 2020 election. The Trump administration said the bill would "return to the heavy-handed regulatory approach of the previous administration".
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Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, argued the Democratic-backed bill could lead to a bipartisan dialogue. "New Hampshire consumers and small businesses depend on a level playing field and today we moved a step closer to restoring net neutrality". "I'm proud to stand with them in that fight".
In a statement Wednesday, Pai called the House bill a "big-government solution in search of a problem".
He noted that the chamber past year approved a resolution to undo the Trump administration's rule reversal.
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In the meantime, a slew of state governments began writing and implementing net neutrality protections of their own.