Republicans in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have been pushing for legislation that codifies net neutrality principles, making them a part of federal law. Even with control of both chambers of the U.S. Congress, Republicans have not been able to convince enough Democratic members of Congress to get on board with passing a law that would avoid the back and forth pendulum between promulgating and repealing net neutrality rules on the agency level at the Federal Communications Commission.
Last spring, 52 U.S. Senators, including three Republicans, voted to reinstate net neutrality rules that were repealed in December 2017 by FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order. Mr. Pai’s treatment of net neutrality keeps the emphasis on one of the open internet’s four principles, transparency but leaves the other three principles; throttling, paid prioritization, and blocking, up to the “network effect”, where broadband access providers argue that discouraging use of the internet by blocking, throttling, or discriminating between carriers would lead to a devaluation of their networks, thus an illogical approach to take.
GOP control of the House is under threat this November. If election sentiment carries over into the midterms, it is likely that the Democratic Party will capture the House. Rasmussen Reports found that 47% of likely voters in the United States’ midterm elections are likely to vote for the Democratic Party while 42% of likely voters may cast their ballots for the Republican Party.
In the U.S. Senate, Republicans hold 51 seats while the Democrats hold 47 seats. Two independents, Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, caucus with the Democrats. The Democrats need at least four seats to regain control of the Senate.
In the U.S. House, Republicans hold 236 seats to the Democrats 193. Democrats need to pick up at least 25 seats to garner a House majority.
Will Democrats run on net neutrality as an issue? Based in polling from Pew Research, net neutrality is likely not an issue to grab the eardrums of voters. For all voters, economic issues overall took first place, according Pew’s poll. When broken down, the top six issues were:
- Health care
- Politicians/Government systems
- Guns/gun control/gun laws
- Economy/economic issues
For Democrats, while the top three overall issues for all voters were also a part of the Democrats of top three issues, gun control, politicians and government systems, and jobs rounded out the bottom three of their top six concerns.
House Democrats are aligning with their base’s apparent lack of priority for net neutrality. Looking at a sample of 102 House Democrat websites, only four (3.9%) of those sites mentioned net neutrality, the open internet, or internet freedom as a key issue.
The low priority given to net neutrality this campaign season by voters and House Democrats tells me that Democrats will be in no hurry to join Republicans in drafting a bipartisan net neutrality bill.