Editorial: Need for Speed

Congress must find common ground on network neutrality

Congress must find common ground on network neutrality if there is ever going to be any regulatory certainty. Without that “certainty,” consumers won’t feel comfortable with sharing info, having their nuclear power plants run online or seeing self-driving cars running on the highway. Also, ISPs need to be able to run their businesses and invest in more and better technology without having to guess how the internet will be regulated in any particular political cycle.

The answer on this issue is not for Congressional Democrats to spend a lot of time and energy trying to nullify the decision, which isn’t going to happen.

The need for regulatory certainty is becoming increasingly evident as the legal challenges mount to the FCC’s elimination of the rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.

Washington State became the first to take on Washington, the feds, last week, when Gov. Jay Inslee signed the first state law restoring the internet rules that the Restoring Internet Freedom Order eliminated. Put an accent on “the first,” as there will be others.

There are also executive orders in a handful of states saying that no ISPs contracting with the state can block, throttle or engage in paid prioritization. There will likely be more of those, too.

Then there are the challenges to the FCC rule rollback itself, being mounted by powerful computer companies and activists. Those could stretch for a year at least, winding up in the Supreme Court, which was holding off on reviewing the challenge to the 2015 rules until this latest turn of the wheel (or the “screw,” as some would see it).

Meanwhile, legislators on both sides talk about the need to find a bipartisan way forward. Talk is cheap, and it’s currently no match for divisions. As long as Democrats are pushing the Congressional Review Act route, which could take months to run its course, that will be an even more up-Hill battle.

There has got to be a way to prevent blocking and throttling of content, as well as anti-competitive paid prioritization, while still allowing for business models that prioritize traffic in pro-consumer ways — say, an automaker paying to get life-saving information to a self-driving car a millisecond ahead of that cuddly kitten hitting the piano keys.