The net neutrality battle: FCC chairman backs away, but not enough

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[Commentary] Fans of network neutrality -- the idea that Internet service providers shouldn't be able to block, slow, or favor some content providers over others -- should show Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler a little love.

Obviously, that's not because Chairman Wheeler's open Internet proposal, scheduled for presentation to his fellow Federal Communications Commission members, upholds the net neutrality principle. It doesn't; by condoning "paid prioritization," through which some content providers can pay to get better access to users than others, it does immense violence to the principle.

No, Chairman Wheeler deserves some love because his ham-handed way of putting out his plan has placed what might otherwise be an obscure proposal followed mainly by techies on a much bigger burner. Chairman Wheeler has responded to the public uproar generated by his plan to back off it, a wee bit. It's still bad for the Internet.

The upcoming vote wouldn't implement Chairman Wheeler's proposal, but open it up for public comment. But it would be a major step in the wrong direction.

There is no question that allowing such arrangements would be a major retreat for the FCC. The agency would be placed in the position of ruling on commercial deals that already had been put in place, and trying to unwind those it didn't like, based on very murky standards. This would be like trying to dismantle a skyscraper after it's been built.

The net neutrality battle: FCC chairman backs away, but not enough