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Schumer Floor Remarks on Net Neutrality

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need to preserve net neutrality:

Madame President, now as the minority, we typically cannot move legislation on the floor without the consent of the Majority Leader. But under the rules governing Congressional Review, any group of 30 Senators can petition to discharge a CRA – a Congressional Review Act – from the committee and bring it up on the floor, subject to a majority vote. That’s what Senator Markey has just done with the CRA on net neutrality, and the vote that just concluded means the full Senate will now consider it because I believe there were fifty-three – fifty-two votes in favor.

For the first time in this Congress, the Majority will be called to vote on an issue I suspect they’d rather avoid.

Net neutrality is a complex issue, but an incredibly consequential one. At stake is the future of the internet, which until this point in our history, has remained free and open, accessible, and affordable to most Americans. That fundamental equality of access is what has made the internet so dynamic; a catalyst for innovation, a tool for learning, a means of instant and worldwide communication.

To ensure the internet stayed that way, the Obama-era FCC instituted net neutrality rules to prevent large internet service providers from segmenting the internet into fast and slow lanes. From selling faster service to folks who could pay, slower service to others – we didn’t want that. From charging customers more for their favorite sites, from divvying the internet up into packages like cable TV.

Why was this so important? Because if large cable and internet companies were allowed to do this, the internet wouldn’t operate on a level playing field. Big corporations and folks who could pay would enjoy the benefits of fast internet and speedy delivery to their customers while startups, smalls businesses, public schools, average folks, communities of color, and rural Americans could well be disadvantaged.

Net neutrality protected everyone and prevented large ISPs from discrimination against any customers.

That era – the era of a free and open internet – unfortunately will soon come to an end. In December, the Republican-led FCC voted to repeal the net neutrality rules. And on June 11th of this year, that repeal will go into effect. It may not be a cataclysm on day one, but sure as rain, if internet service providers are given the ability to start charging more for preferred service, they’ll find a way to do it.

So the Democratic position is very simple: let’s treat the internet like the public good that it is. We don’t let water companies or phone companies discriminate against customers; we don’t restrict access to interstate highways, saying you can ride on the highway, and you can’t. We shouldn’t do that with the internet either. That’s what the Democratic net neutrality CRA would ensure.

Now, three Republicans – we appreciate – join cloture on our bill. We hope more will come with us. Where do Republicans stand on this issue? Why haven’t we heard much from them on this issue, when it’s a typical issue that protects the middle class, working families, and average Americans from big special interests taking advantage of them?

I suspect our colleagues are kind of quiet on this issue because the arguments made by opponents of net neutrality aren’t very convincing. Some opponents say net neutrality is an unwarranted and burdensome regulation, something that hampers the internet. I’d remind those critics that net neutrality has been on the books for several years and the internet is working just fine! Furthermore, the net neutrality rules were upheld by the courts as appropriate consumer protection.

Yet, you’ll hear some of my Republican friends say that we shouldn’t restore net neutrality via this CRA because we need bipartisan legislation to deal with the issue. That argument is a duck. It’s a dodge. It’s a way for my Republican friends to delay.

Democrats are happy to do bipartisan legislation to enshrine net neutrality into law, but the legislation is going to take time. In the meantime, we must ensure consumers have a safety net, right now, and this CRA is the quickest and surest way of doing it. Plain and simple: if you’re for net neutrality, you ought to be for Senator Markey’s CRA.

Madame President, this issue presents a stark contrast: are you on the side of the large internet and cable companies, or are you on the side of the average American family? That’s what the vote on this legislation is all about.

And I say to every American who cares about an open and free internet: today is the day. Contact your Republican Senator. See who votes for net neutrality and who votes against. And let them know how you feel about the way they voted.

This is our chance – our best chance – to make sure the internet stays accessible and affordable for all Americans.