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Net Neutrality Soundly Defeated in Midterm Elections


The disapproval of Democrats' signature health care overhaul and handling of the economy weren't the only issues on voters' minds Tuesday when they cast their ballots in this year's midterm elections.

Before the election, 95 House and Senate candidates pledged their support for "net neutrality" -- a promise to stand "against any attempt by big corporations to control the internet and eliminate the internet's level playing field ... to protect Net Neutrality for the entire internet - wired and wireless - and make sure big corporations aren't allowed to take control of free speech online." But during Tuesday's wave, all 95 Democrats were defeated. Was the midterm election cycle the final nail in the coffin for net neutrality?

CNN Money wonders:

The Federal Communications Commission tried to implement Net neutrality rules but got smacked down in April by a court ruling saying it did not have the authority to do so. As a result, it is preparing a proposal asking Congress to give it new authority to regulate broadband Internet service. ...

The way the FCC is considering implementing the new regulations is vehemently opposed by cable and telecom companies, as well as many Republican and Democratic lawmakers.  The FCC had planned on bringing its proposal to a vote in September, but delayed it until after the election, given the opposition. Even a more relaxed compromise bill drafted by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., failed to gain enough traction to pass.

Republican lawmakers largely oppose the idea of Net neutrality. Though a majority of Democratic lawmakers support the issue -- all of the 95 candidates that said they would support Net neutrality on the left-leaning Progressive Change Campaign Committee's website were Democrats -- they have been divided on whether to pass the FCC's proposed legislation. ...

The widespread Democratic losses made an already uphill battle even tougher. More than a dozen incumbent congressmen who had voted for a similar Net neutrality bill in 2006 were voted out of office on Tuesday, most notably Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., a 28-year House veteran.  Now, experts say the FCC needs to regroup and weigh its options.

“Obviously, the election results mean the FCC has to go about it alone or work out some sort of deal,” said Ron Gruia, principal consultant at Frost & Sullivan. “That’s not an easy balancing act. With change in the composition of House, the momentum for legislative change and the likelihood of changing broadband to Title II is gone.”

So while the issue of net neutrality may not be completely dead, the people have spoken and the loudest support of the FCC's plan may just come from large internet corporations like Google rather than from members of Congress.

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