After the clusterf*ck circus, near-“deal”-breaking, and back-channel discussions sparked by a judicial ruling stripping the FCC from preventing data discrimination online, and nothing (substantive) doing from the agency itself as a result, the ball has been tossed to Congress. Where it landed with a thud.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) was poised to introduce a bill that would have effectively been a “compromise” – on an issue in which “compromise” would have meant throttling the FCC’s regulatory authority and leaving lots of loopholes for data discrimination. Bad, bad news.

Fortunately, that bill has apparently died in the womb, and the do-nothing Senate is not expecting any network neutrality-related legislation to make the hurdles before this session of Congress ends. The election-time cash-lubricant style of lobbying goes on, however.

Perhaps more would be getting done if Congressfolk and their staffs weren’t so busy defaming and defacing enemies online. What the f*ck, is the Capitol now the country’s most prestigious junior-high school?

This is a non-partisan failure: a system failure of governance, not one of a party with actual balls being blocked by a party with none. What is patently clear now is that neither major party has the balls to take a stand on the issue of network neutrality.

In the meantime, the FCC appears poised to allow the same tiered-pricing regime that dominates the wired broadband marketplace be applied to the wireless world, with significant (and unexplored) implications.

Where have the reformistas been in all of this? Suspiciously quiet about the latest wrangling on Capitol Hill, and otherwise putting on tepid “waffle-shows” to chastise regulators and lawmakers for neglecting this important issue. Unimpressive at best.

In the United Kingdom, the two largest broadband Internet Service Providers are all but openly soliciting business that would allow the throttling of traffic based on payment.

Quoting TalkTalk’s executive director of strategy and regulation, Andrew Heaney, “There are [already] huge levels of discrimination over traffic type. We prioritise voice traffic over our network. We shape peer-to-peer traffic and deprioritise it during the busy hour.”

Nice dodge, good sir, but you forgot to mention one thing – “traffic-shaping” to maintain a certain level of quality-of-service is much different from slowing down traffic based on fiscal incentives. The former is good network-management; the latter is simple greed.

2011 does not appear to be a promising year for an open Internet. The longer regulators and lawmakers dawdle, the more likely it is that ISPs will simply make up their own marketplace-rules as they go along – and they are not likely to be consumer-friendly. What a shame; there is plenty of it to go around, too.