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It's put-up or shut-up time for the FCC's net-neutrality advocates

Usually, when everybody professes agreement with a set of principles that only a few people violate, it's not hard to write and pass enforceable laws.

For whatever reason, that hasn't happened this time around.

Congress's inaction returns the net-neutrality debate to where it was back in May - and also to a possible solution.

Back in the spring, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski suggested that the FCC could write net-neutrality rules on its own by reversing its 2005 decision that had placed broadband providers under a looser regulatory framework than dial-up services.

This "Title II reclassification" (named after the chapter of the Telecommunications Act of 1934 regulating "common carrier" services such as voice calling) doesn't require a permission slip from Congress. A simple majority vote of the FCC's five commissioners will do, and three of them have publicly argued for net-neutrality rules.

And not only is this Title II fix the only way left to have any effective net-neutrality rules, it's also a requirement for some important plans to expand rural Internet access in the FCC's National Broadband Plan.

Further, it's hard to claim that the FCC lacks a mandate to do this: President Obama included net neutrality in his tech-policy campaign pledges early on.

But will the commission, having spent the entire summer avoiding action on net neutrality, now go ahead and do what it's been saying it will do? Or will it punt on the entire issue? I don't see any other option left for the FCC.

Corporate executives have been fond of complaining about the "uncertainty" out of Washington. Well, the net-neutrality debate is one source of uncertainty the government can easily fix. The FCC can get it over with, follow the plan it unveiled in the spring and write a simple set of net-neutrality rules.

If the commission can't or won't do that now that every other remedy appears exhausted, it should admit the obvious, end this farce and stop wasting everybody's time.


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