When a federal appeals court rejected the Federal Communications Commission's proposal to maintain "net neutrality," or open access to the Internet, it also told the FCC how to do it.
Unfortunately, the FCC has not followed the court's prescribed model in a second proposal to codify net neutrality. It's questionable whether the new rules would be effective.
The issue is not an arcane technical matter. It is crucially important to every consumer in the digital age.
Net neutrality means that Internet service providers may not block access to the Internet for any content provider, and many not cut deals with their own affiliates or contracted providers to dominate the Internet. It is even more important amid a declining number of dominant Internet service providers, especially with the merger of Comcast and TimeWarner Cable.
Comcast already has demonstrated the bad new era for content providers and consumers through a deal with the video-streaming service Netflix, under which Netflix will pay Comcast for guaranteed higher-speed delivery.
Last week the FCC proposed new net neutrality rules that say Internet service providers "may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity."
That phrase, obviously, is open to interpretation as to what is "commercially unreasonable." Under the rule, the FCC acknowledged, the Comcast-Netflix deal would be allowed.
The court said that the FCC could impose the earlier, tougher rules by reclassifying broadband as a fully regulated, common carrier telecommunications service.
That remains what the FCC should do.