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ND senators split on net neutrality vote

Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp, pictured here in a 2017 file photo, recently cast opposing votes for the reversal of repealing net neutrality rules. Jesse Trelstad / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — North Dakota's U.S. senators split on a vote to reverse the repeal of net neutrality rules Wednesday, May 16, as a few Republicans joined the chamber's Democrats to pass the resolution.

Senators used a law that allows Congress to overturn regulatory decisions, such as December's Federal Communications Commission vote to strip the Obama-era rules aimed at ensuring internet service providers treat content equally. The regulation's supporters have warned against allowing ISPs to charge websites for faster service at the expense of competition.

The rules are scheduled to expire June 11.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who voted in favor of Wednesday's resolution, said she has heard from more than 5,500 North Dakotans worried about web access. She called the vote a "critical and important step" and a "victory for consumers."

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., voted against the measure and called for a "light regulatory touch" to help small companies compete.

"I haven't talked to anyone who isn't for net neutrality generically," Hoeven said. "That doesn't mean that the Obama-era regulation is the right approach to give us net neutrality."

The resolution's fate is uncertain in the House and it's unlikely to have President Donald Trump's support, the Washington Post reported. But Heitkamp was hopeful members of the other chamber and the administration could be persuaded.

"I think there is incredible interest in this, especially among young people," she said.

After the FCC's December vote, North Dakota Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer said the debate over "poorly named 'net neutrality' rules has turned into a dangerous political mudslinging match." He said he supports a "free and open internet" but disagreed with Democrats on the "regulatory framework to enforce these rules."

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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