Senate votes Wednesday on effort to reinstate 'net neutrality' rules

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate will vote on Wednesday on whether to reverse a decision by the Trump administration to roll back Obama-era “net neutrality” rules, Democratic senators said on Monday.

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Advocates of keeping the 2015 open-internet rules have the backing of 50 U.S. senators, including Republican Susan Collins. And with the absence of Senator John McCain because of illness, they believe they will win on a 50-49 vote.

The effort still faces an uphill battle - it is uncertain if the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives will even vote on the issue and the White House backs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules approved last December.

The FCC repealed rules set under President Barack Obama, a Democrat, that barred providers from blocking or slowing down access to content or charging consumers more for certain content.

Those 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.”

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer said the issue will energize voters in November’s congressional elections, when a number of lawmakers in President Donald Trump’s Republican Party may be vulnerable.

“A vote against this resolution will be a vote to protect large corporations and special interests, leaving the American public to pay the price,” Schumer said in a statement on Monday.

On Thursday, the FCC said the Obama net neutrality rules will expire on June 11 and the new regulations approved in December handing providers broad new power over how consumers can access the internet will take effect.

Comcast Corp CMCSA.O, Verizon Communications Inc VZ.N and AT&T Inc T.N have all 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 to try to stop new rules from taking effect. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, told reporters last week that consumers would not be harmed and he said it would simply return the internet to the pre-2015 oversight.

Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Grant McCool