This week's FCC action should bring a long-delayed victory for net neutrality. It's an important victory, without which the online world that we've come to take for granted would risk being auctioned off to the highest bidder. But this victory might never have happened without an unlikely political coalition a decade ago.
On February 26, the FCC will do something that few have ever accused the government of doing. It will recognize reality and act appropriately. That, in a nutshell, is the debate over net neutrality. Just as plain telephone service connected people and was regulated, now it's data services. Calls or video are all just megabits. Telephone companies couldn't discriminate in their traffic then, neither should they or cable companies be able to play favorites or manipulate customers now. That basic, regulated fairness is what allowed the Internet to develop, a point some current opponents seem to miss, whether blinded by ideology or money. But if you listen to the anguished cri de coeur from the loyal defenders of the big telecom companies, you would think the FCC's action was a government coup d'interconnecter -- a takeover of The Internet.
Some have suggested that it would be better for Congress to legislate net-neutrality rules instead of relying on the FCC's rule-making authority. That would be fine too; after all, Congress always has the prerogative to legislate. But the open Internet we know today occurred under our existing communications laws and the FCC's watch, so passing a law to trump the FCC's rules is premature.
The FCC has consistently failed in creating lasting net-neutrality rules for lack of authority. Since Congress gives the FCC its authority, the obvious answer is legislation that actually gives the FCC the authority to legally preserve open-Internet principles rather than the risky and unnecessary pursuit of Title II regulation.