POLITICAL scientists might be joining Internet companies, innovators and customers to follow the Federal Communications Commission meeting scheduled for Thursday. How will a truly bad idea be handled?

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has suffered a barrage of criticism since he proposed allowing Internet service providers (ISPs) to cut deals with content providers to pay more for faster service.

Wheeler’s pay-for-prioritization proposal means the end of net neutrality, the idea that all Internet content is treated equally — free of toll booths or fast lanes.

His idea is scheduled to come up for a procedural vote that would set off a comment period leading to a final vote, perhaps, by the end of the year.

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Doubts and outright opposition to the proposal have taken on tidal-wave proportions, and includes his two Democratic colleagues, FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn. Rosenworcel wants a delay of any consideration, and Clyburn repeated her commitment to an open Internet and to formally protect that value.

Dozens of Internet companies, including Amazon.com, Google, Netflix and Microsoft, signed a letter that expressed their opposition to ISPs cutting sweetheart deals.

They were joined by nearly 100 public-policy organizations that signed a letter to President Obama and Wheeler declaring their support for net neutrality and their desire for Wheeler to abandon any rule change that diminishes an open Internet.

May 15 is taking shape as a day of protests online and outside the FCC hearing, with Free Press, a media organization rallying the public to Save the Internet.
The ether is filled with talk of protesters perhaps occupying FCC quarters.

One face-saving out for Wheeler is to announce the commission’s agenda is too full to take up his proposal and delay it for later.

The best plan for the FCC is to ensure net neutrality by regulating cable and telephone companies as common carriers. A federal court ruling even told the commission how to do it under the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Wheeler has no support for a bad idea from his colleagues or the public. Shelve the pay-for-priority Internet plan.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).