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Senate Democrats Force Vote in Bid to Restore Net Neutrality

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Democrats are lining up behind an effort in the Senate to restore what's known as "net neutrality" to the internet, even if the odds are heavily against it. 

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to toss aside the two-year-old policy, which was intended to prevent internet service providers from blocking or slowing down content. The move, led by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, is supported by those who say it will allow providers to create more and better content without jeopardizing fair access to various sites.

But the vote has created uncertainty for school districts, who could be forced to choose between "fast" and "slow" lanes of the internet as they look to provide various online services to students. The move could also create problemsfor ed-tech start-ups that can't pony up more money in exchange for faster internet service like more established companies.

School districts are still figuring out how to proceed in the new internet landscape, as our colleague Sean Cavanagh reported for the Digital Education blog earlier this month. 

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are lining up supporters for a Congressional Review Act resolution that would overturn the FCC's decision. It recently cleared the 30-vote threshold required for the Senate to hold a vote on the resolution, although it's not clear when such a vote would take place. Earlier this week, the resolution had picked up over 40 "yes" votes. And Sen. Susan Collins, R-Me., said she would support it

The CRA resolution would face long odds of passing the House and getting approved by President Donald Trump (who appointed Pai to the top spot on the FCC), even if it does get the required Senate votes. Republicans control both chambers of Congress—in the Senate, they hold a 51-49 advantage. But Democrats hope to use the resolution to their advantage whether it passes Congress or not, especially with midterm elections coming up later this year, given the popularity of net neutrality in polls.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who is leading the Democrats' efforts to get the resolution passed, said in a statement on Tuesday there would be a "political price" to pay for Republicans who oppose the effort

"The anti-consumer regulations passed by the Trump administration [take] away a fundamental right that ensures the internet is a diverse, dynamic and open [place] to everyone. We can force a vote to restore net neutrality and level the playing field away from the big corporations," Markey said.

Early in 2017, Republicans used a CRA resolution to overturn Obama-era accountability rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act. 

Photo: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaks during the National Association of Broadcasters trade show in Las Vegas in April. (Ethan Miller/Getty-File)

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