WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New U.S. Internet traffic rules cleared a hurdle on Thursday, surviving an attempt by the Senate to block them from taking effect later in the month.
President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats in the Senate blocked a Republican-backed resolution to disapprove of the Federal Communications Commission’s rules on “net neutrality.” The vote was 52-46 against the resolution.
Adopted by a divided FCC last December, the rules forbid broadband providers from blocking legal content while leaving flexibility for providers to manage their networks.
The rules still face a court challenge. Lawsuits by Verizon Communications Inc and others have been consolidated before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The Senate resolution was championed by Kay Bailey Hutchinson, the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, and had 42 co-sponsors, all Republican. A similar measure passed the Republican-led House of Representatives in April.
Regulations to mandate the neutrality of the Internet — in terms of content, sites, platforms and types of equipment that may be attached — have been the subject of fierce debate for the last 10 years.
The dispute pits content providers, who seek protection against the blocking or degrading of their services, against Internet service providers who often supply rival content and fear their networks could be overwhelmed.
The FCC’s rules allow consumers and entrepreneurs to utilize the Internet “without having to ask permission from their broadband provider,” Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said on Wednesday.
Backers of net neutrality say big providers could otherwise use their gatekeeper role to discriminate against competitors.
But Republicans said the rules were an unprecedented power grab by the FCC.
Hutchinson said the rules were yet another example of the “Obama administration’s relentless imposition of new and destructive regulations... (that) are freezing our economy.”
The FCC rules are scheduled to go into effect on November 20.
Reporting by Jasmin Melvin; Editing by Tim Dobbyn