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Republicans lose key vote to block FCC net neut rules

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In a rare legislative victory for the Obama administration, Senate Republicans failed to pass a resolution to express that body's disapproval of the Federal Communications Commission's network neutrality regulations.

The FCC's "Preserving the Open Internet" rules were proposed last December, made official when they were published in the Federal Register in late September, and are scheduled to go into effect on November 20.

The rules are detailed in a dense 42-page document. The Republican disapproval was more concise, reading: "Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission relating to the matter of preserving the open internet and broadband industry practices ... and such rule shall have no force or effect."

The US House of Representatives had approved their version of the Joint Resolution in April.

Surprising no one, the resolution was voted down entirely on party lines, with 46 senators – all Republicans – voting Yea, and 52 senators – all Democrats – voting Nay. Two senators – one Republican and one Democrat – did not vote.

In a statement on the Senate floor before the vote, the resolution's key sponsor, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, said: "We must preserve the openness of the internet as a platform for innovation and economic growth. It must be free from job-killing regulatory interference by the government."

A key opponent, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, disagreed, arguing: "Net neutrality is not about a government takeover of the internet, and it is not about changing anything. Net neutrality and the rules the FCC passed are about keeping the Internet the way it is today and the way it has always been."

Another supporter, John Kerry of Massachusetts, released a statement after the vote, saying: "This is a victory for innovation, consumers, and common sense. Today, the Senate refused to hand over the Internet to a small group of corporate interests, and we need to keep up the fight because we know this isn’t the last we’ve heard of the assault on net neutrality."

If you're an opponent of the FCC rules, don't despair; if you're a supporter, don't rejoice. The rules will be contested in the courts, with heavyweight telco Verizon on the Republican's side, saying that the FCC exceeded its authority, and Google and Free Press siding with the Democrats, agreeing with FCC chairman Julius Genachowski that the rules are valid.

"It ain't over 'til it's over," said backstop sage Yogi Berra. In the case of "Preserving the Open Internet", however, "over" is not even remotely in sight. ®

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