The impending death of net neutrality looked pretty much set in stone, but congressional Democrats are giving it another shot to live on. On Wednesday, the US Senate will hold a vote to reverse the FEC's previous decision. Can net neutrality be spared after all?
I don't want to get anyone's hopes up -- the answer to that question is "probably not." Although the initiative is likely to succeed in the Senate where it has the support of every Democrat as well as Republican Senator Susan Collins (making it a 50-49 vote with John McCain absent,) it will have a much bigger hurdle to clear in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Nevertheless, the vote would still be a win for Democrats. 83 percent of Americans want to maintain net neutrality, so it'd be smart for lefty legislators to take a stand on this issue rather than rolling over on it so easily.
The internet is awash with think pieces about how the Democratic Party needs to take stances on issues other than general opposition to President Donald Trump. Here's a chance for Democrats to latch onto a popular issue and prove it is listening to the will of the American people.
Inevitably some will argue that it's a useless political exercise if it cannot pass in the House, but never forget that House Republicans voted to repeal or amend Obamacare over 50 times knowing full well that the Senate wouldn't follow suit. Symbolic gestures are the norm.
Besides, preserving net neutrality is, plainly, the right thing to do. House Republicans haven't felt the same pressure yet, and if the House ultimately decides not to pass it, let those representatives have to explain why they're standing with corporate profits instead of their constituents (including the 75 percent of Republicans want net neutrality.)
With so many tight races in this November's midterms, there are potentially some conservative lawmakers that will break the party line to preserve net neutrality. That, or they could hand their Democratic opponents another easy criticism for their campaigns.
Even if enough Republicans switch their votes, the reversal would still head to President Donald Trump for his signature. Alas, Trump has seemed pleased with FEC Chair Ajit Pai's work so it's unlikely that he'd have a change of heart on this move that surely had the president's blessing.
If the Democrats' quest doesn't succeed, net neutrality is slated to formally end on June 11. Without neutrality rules, internet companies could put data caps on internet subscriptions, charge more to visit certain websites and intentionally slow the speed on other sites. We'll have to see how quickly internet providers decide to take advantage of this regulatory freedom, but it will not be good for Americans who enjoy a free and open internet.