Why Wait on Washington, Waxman or Wu to Protect the Internet? The States Can Break the Stalemate

10/21/2010 01:42 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Gridlock in Washington should not prevent public structures from being protected. The public Internet is the infrastructure of the 21st century and essential for businesses that want to thrive in the global economy, schools that want to prepare students for jobs that can sustain healthy families, and vibrant communities.

The FCC is drowning in documents and filings about its proposed regulatory framework, the "Third Way." Congress has tried and failed to enact legislation that would update the Telecommunications Act to cover the Internet. Scholars have produced countless white papers about "net neutrality" and other technical theories that immediately put ordinary people in a stupor. Meanwhile any attempt to create rules of the road for Internet users in DC prompts big well-heeled industry players to trumpet sound bites about a "government takeover."

Back home in our states, cities and towns regular people still work together to protect the public interest. The success rate of solving problems gets higher the further removed you are from the beltway. "Crisis" has real meaning when the people it impacts are your neighbors.

Since the Comcast case makes it clear the Federal Communications Commission does not have authority to regulate the Internet, and Congress has failed to act, the states are free to protect their citizens' rights to access all legal content, uses devices and applications of their choice, and have accurate and transparent information about the services they purchase.

Freedom of expression in the 21st century depends on an Internet that is open to all and not controlled by a handful of big corporations looking for market share. The states can and should act to protect citizens' rights to the modern-day town square. The wonder of the Internet and its promise of democracy and innovation should not wait on Washington.