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Victory! The House of Representatives Passes Net Neutrality Protections

DEEPLINKS BLOG
April 10, 2019

Victory! The House of Representatives Passes Net Neutrality Protections

Cat & Unicorn

In a vote of 232-190, the House of Representatives passed the Save the Internet Act (H.R. 1644). This is a major step forward in the fight for net neutrality protections, and it’s because you spoke up about what you want.

The Save the Internet Act was written to restore the strong and hard-fought protections of the 2015 Open Internet Order. Americans overwhelmingly support an Internet where Internet service providers (ISPs) have to treat all the data transmitted over their networks in a nondiscriminatory way. In other words, where ISPs don’t act as gatekeepers to the Internet and where you, the user, decide how and what you want to see online. As many Americans have no choice when it comes to their ISP, it is vital that they retain control over their online experience.

Americans overwhelmingly support an Internet where Internet service providers (ISPs) have to treat all the data transmitted over their networks in a nondiscriminatory way.

Famously, violations of net neutrality have included the practices of blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. But that is not all that ISPs can do to warp your Internet experience. The Open Internet Order of 2015 prohibited these three techniques, while also including privacy and competition protections. All of these things would be restored with the Save the Internet Act. We deserve a return to the 2015 order, not a watered-down version of net neutrality.

The Save the Internet Act could have had damaging or weakening amendments added to it on its way to today’s vote, but you spoke up and told your Representatives that you wanted real net neutrality and not net neutrality in name only. That’s why the Save the Internet Act passed unscathed.

A number of amendments did get added to the bill, but they are mostly about directing research by government agencies into the state of the Internet and FCC accountability.

One amendment does give us pause, though. The last amendment to the bill (McAdams), affirms a bit from the old Open Internet Order, saying that the net neutrality prohibition on blocking doesn’t prevent ISPs from blocking “illegal” content, a distinction that includes copyrighted material. Users do not want an ISP to substitute for a court of law on determining the legality of speech online. Users want ISPs to simply provide broadband access and serve as conduits of our speech. A broad reading of this amendment could easily have greenlit Comcast’s throttling of Bit Torrent, which led to a past FCC sanctioning the cable company for violating net neutrality.  

EFF had concerns with the original 2015 order, as it seemed to let ISPs make their own determinations of legality, rather than say that blocking content deemed illegal to a court is not a violation of the order. As ISPs and media companies become even more intertwined, it’s easy to imagine this loophole being exploited. However, legislative debate between Rep. Ben McAdams, the amendment’s author, and Rep. Mike Doyle, the lead author of the Save the Internet Act, made clear that this amendment did not give an ISP the right to censor content solely because the ISP thought the content was unlawful.

As the Save the Internet Act is debated in the Senate and comes up to a final vote, we’ll fight to keep net neutrality protections from having a copyright loophole. But before we can do that, we need the Senate to take up net neutrality as an issue.

Last year, a majority of the Senate voted to overturn the FCC. Like the Save the Internet Act, that Congressional Review Act vote would have restored the protections of the 2015 Open Internet Order. It’s time to ask the Senate to once again show a commitment to a free and open Internet. Contact your Senators and tell them to co-sponsor the Save the Internet Act (S. 682).

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