December 16, 2017 / 12:21 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-U.S. Senate Democrats to force vote on FCC net neutrality repeal

(Adds Republican reaction)

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, Dec 15 (Reuters) - The top U.S. Senate Democrat said on Friday he would force a vote on the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to repeal landmark net neutrality rules, but the move was unlikely to block a ruling that could reshape the digital landscape.

The FCC voted Thursday along party lines to reverse the Obama era rules barring internet service providers from blocking or throttling internet traffic, or offering paid fast lanes. A group of state attorneys general vowed to sue.

On Friday, Senator Charles Schumer of New York said he would force a vote on the FCC action under the Congressional Review Act. Republicans scuttled internet privacy rules adopted under the Obama administration using the same procedural vehicle.

“There will be a vote to repeal the rule that the FCC passed. It’s in our power to do that,” Schumer said in New York. “Sometimes we don’t like them, when they used it to repeal some of the pro environmental regulations, but now we can use the CRA to our benefit and we intend to.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes Schumer’s effort and backed the FCC repeal, a spokesman for the Republican said Friday. A reversal of Thursday’s FCC vote would need the approval of the Senate, U.S. House and President Donald Trump. Trump also backed the FCC action, the White House said Thursday.

This week’s FCC order grants internet providers sweeping new powers to block, throttle or discriminate among internet content, but requires public disclosure of those practices. Internet providers have vowed not to change how consumers get online content. The FCC rules also seek to bar states from imposing their own net neutrality requirements.

The FCC said the rules would take effect once the White House Office of Management and Budget approved the new transparency rules, which could take several months.

Democrats say net neutrality is essential to protect consumers, while Republicans say the rules hindered investment by providers and were not needed.

Moody’s Investors Service said in a note Friday the FCC vote was “credit positive” for internet service providers that could have faced rate regulation under the 2015 rules that would have treated them like public utilities. Moody’s said providers “will tread lightly when it comes to engaging in paid prioritization and throttling, as there could be significant negative public reaction to these acts.”

Moody’s said “at least in the near term, the cost of negative publicity on their existing businesses far outweighs the benefit of additional revenue streams these companies can generate from paid prioritization agreements.” (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio and Andrew Hay)

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