Murkowski cites rural Alaska in net neutrality vote with Dems

Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks with reporters at a press availability following her annual address to the Alaska Legislature on Feb. 22, 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks with reporters at a press availability following her annual address to the Alaska Legislature on Feb. 22, 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski joined two other Republicans who broke GOP ranks to vote with Democrats on Wednesday in an effort to protect an Obama-era rule on net neutrality.

The Federal Communications Commission repealed the net neutrality rule in December after heavy lobbying by telecommunications companies. The FCC decision would go into effect next month, removing a ban on internet providers blocking or slowing down certain content.

But Murkowski and her fellow Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and John Kennedy of Louisiana made the vote 52-47 to block the FCC’s repeal.

In a recorded statement, Murkowski said internet regulations should not shift depending on who runs the FCC.

“I voted to pass this resolution today so that we can reset the discussion and really move beyond the politics that are at play here,” Murkowski said.

Murkowski also said she supported the resolution because of rural Alaska’s unique reliance on internet access.

“In Alaska, at stake are rural health clinics and schools that rely on life-saving telemedicine services and access to educational resources,” Murkowski said. “Telehealth and tele-education in Alaska are not just important, it’s critical.”

Murkowski said she wants to see legislation to prevent internet service providers from blocking certain sites or throttling down speeds.

Alaska’s other senator, Dan Sullivan, said he agrees with that. But Sullivan split with Murkowski and voted against the resolution.

In a written statement, Sullivan said he thinks repealing the rule will remove a regulatory burden on Alaska telecommunications companies and encourage infrastructure investment.

However, keeping the rule intact is still seen as a long shot. It’s unlikely to get support in the Republican-controlled U.S. House, or to survive the veto pen of President Donald Trump.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the author as Liz Ruskin. Casey Grove reported on this story.

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