Even though consumers won't know for some time whether Internet rules adopted Tuesday will assure them continued open access to all that's on the Web, they're better off now that federal regulators have acted.
The Federal Communications Commission rules designed to give regulators limited powers to prevent Internet providers like Verizon and Comcast from blocking Web traffic were called "a vital first step" by a prominent Internet-freedom group, the Center for Democracy & Technology.
At issue is whether companies that control the Internet pipeline can charge some heavy users extra fees, or create fast and slow lanes. While court rulings limit the FCC's ability to enforce what is known as net neutrality, the compromise rules negotiated by FCC chairman Julius Genachowski are meant to discourage unequal treatment of net users.
No question, the rules give Comcast, Verizon, and others who serve as the Internet's utility companies a strong hand by permitting them to manage traffic on the Web - in effect, acting as a traffic cop to slow downloads.
Will broadband companies favor their computer applications or programming? If so, there's at least a good chance under the rules' transparency requirements that such practices will be exposed. That could be a deterrent.
The glaring omission - and the reason some critics blasted the rules as "fake net neutrality" - is that they don't apply yet to fast-growing mobile Internet service for smartphones and the like. Clearly, they should.
As much as consumers may hope the FCC ruling is the last word in the confusing debate over net neutrality, it's in their best interest to keep up the public pressure for an open Internet.