When the Federal Communications Commission voted earlier this year to end net neutrality, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn wasn’t happy.
On Wednesday, Clyburn could temporarily breathe a little easier after the Senate voted to pass a measure that would repeal changes to net neutrality rules that were adopted by the Republican-controlled commission.
The measure was backed by all 49 Democrats and Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John Kennedy of Louisiana, but it will almost certainly stall in the GOP-led House and President Donald Trump is unlikely to back it.
While Collins’ support had been public leading up to the vote, Murkowski’s and Kennedy’s “yes” vote came as a surprise to some, CNN reported.
The FCC voted in December to repeal Obama-era protections and the net neutrality rules, approved by the same organization two years earlier, prohibited internet service providers — such Comcast and Verizon — from speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps.
Democrats, like Clyburn, argued the new FCC rules give too much power to internet service providers, which they fear will throttle down speeds for some websites and services while ramping it up for others who pay more.
“We are supposed to be here protecting the consumer’s experience and interests when it comes to communications and other services,” Clyburn said. “We are supposed to be enablers of opportunities, both for businesses and individuals.”
A strong advocate for enhanced accessibility in communications for disabled citizens who also works closely with representative groups for the deaf and hard of hearing, Clyburn has fought to promote strong competition across all communications platforms with a belief that the more robust and competitive the marketplace, the less need there is for regulation, she said.
Clyburn, the daughter of U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and a graduate of the University of South Carolina, began her service at the FCC in August 2009 after 11 years in the sixth district of the Public Service Commission of South Carolina.
The protections she championed in 2015 prohibited broadband providers from blocking or slowing traffic. The rules also banned them from charging companies such as Netflix to reach their customers faster than their competitors.
“The FCC is one of the most significant federal agencies and most people don’t think about it or never heard of it unless there’s a wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl or a four-letter word used during family hour,” Clyburn said. “We are enablers of, or stiflers of, technology. We are enablers of, or stiflers of, broadband. We can ensure that more Americans can be connected. What we do can both make programs like Lifeline more ubiquitous and answer today’s needs when it comes to telecommunications or we can close the books where they don’t work ideally.”
Clyburn said when one thinks about telecommunications, it’s impossible to effectively communicate in the 21st century without communicating with broadband.
“I say to people that when they [ask] what does the FCC does. If you hear or see a signal transmitted over the air, the FCC had something to do with that,” she said.
Now that the Senate has reinforced the importance of net neutrality, Democrats said they’ll push hard for members of the House to do the same.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer spoke after the vote to begin debate earlier Wednesday, arguing that “at stake is the future of the internet.”
“That fundamental equality of access is what has made the internet so dynamic,” he said on the Senate floor. “Net neutrality protected everyone … that era, the era of an open internet, will unfortunately soon come to an end. … The Democratic position is very simple. Let’s treat the internet like the public good that it is.”