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.
The Public Interest has been tarnished, stained and harmed and it is time for a course correction of oversight, accurate data, investigations and enforcement of the laws. It is time to not only re-evaluate the public policies that govern communications services in America, but fix what's broken -- finally.
Over the last few months, things have been looking good for keeping the Internet open to everyone. A little too good, as far as Congress is concerned, which is why members and the corporate lobbyists who write them hefty checks have launched a last-ditch legislative effort to scuttle net neutrality.
The FCC was the institution Congress created years ago to look out for the public interest in communications network access. They were wise to minimize politics and charge the agency with developing the technical expertise to protect universal access to communications services. Congress would be wise now to let the FCC carry out its mission.