U.S. Senate to vote to reinstate open internet rules

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate is set to vote in the coming week on rejecting the Federal Communications Commission decision in December to repeal Obama-era rules guaranteeing an open internet.

FILE PHOTO - Chairman Ajit Pai speaks ahead of the vote on the repeal of so called net neutrality rules at the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, U.S., December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Proponents currently have the backing of 47 Democrats and two independents who caucus with Democrats as well as Republican Senator Susan Collins. With the prolonged absence of Senator John McCain due to illness, proponents believe they will win on a 50-49 vote.

Senate Democrats on Wednesday will officially file petition to force a net neutrality vote and 10 hours of floor debate under the Congressional Review Act. Advocates believe the Senate will vote before the end of next week.

The FCC in December voted 3-2 to reverse Obama-era rules barring service providers from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain online content. The new FCC rules, once effective, would give internet service providers sweeping powers to change how consumers access the internet but include new transparency requirements that require them to disclose any changes to consumers.

The FCC has not yet disclosed when the new rules will be effective, but officials have said the commission will likely give at least 30 days notice before the rules officially take effect. The FCC could soon formally publish the effective date in the coming days, officials say.

If the Senate approves the measure, the measure would not likely pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives or survive a veto by President Donald Trump.

In February, a coalition of 22 state attorneys general refiled legal challenges intended to block the Trump administration’s repeal of net neutrality.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said often he is confident the order will be upheld.

The repeal of the net neutrality rules was a victory for internet service providers like AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc, conferring power over what content consumers can access.

On the other side, technology companies including Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc have thrown their weight behind the congressional bid to reverse the repeal.

Democrats have repeatedly said they believe the issue would be big in the mid-term election, especially among younger internet-savvy voters.

Republicans have said the FCC vote would eliminate heavy-handed government regulations, encourage investment and return the internet to pre-2015 rules.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama