"The fears some have professed that net neutrality rules will stifle network investment have proven unfounded over the years," Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said this morning. "Industry will benefit from clarity, consistency and predictability with regard to net neutrality."
The remarks drew immediate praise from neutrality advocates. "Chairman Waxman's decision to cosponsor legislation preserving non-discrimination and openness should serve as a powerful signal of how important these principles are," Public Knowledge president and co-founder Gigi Sohn said in a statement. "A free and non-discriminatory Internet should not exist at the good will of the telecommunications carriers."
The Internet Freedom Preservation Act, introduced earlier this year by Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), would broadly ban network providers from blocking or degrading any legal content.
While Democratic lawmakers have unsuccessfully pushed for net neutrality legislation in the past, the climate in Washington might be more favorable for this type of bill now.
At the same time, opponents to legislation will almost certainly say it's unnecessary -- especially given the Federal Communications Commission's stance that it's empowered to neutrality principles without new laws.
Last year, the agency sanctioned Comcast for violating neutrality principles by blocking peer-to-peer traffic without adequate notice to subscribers -- despite the absence of legislation.
Comcast has appealed the ruling, arguing that the agency had no authority to issue it. Network providers and advocates are following the appeal closely, but if Congress enacts new legislation, then the court's decision will be far less significant. If nothing else, new legislation could definitively establish that ISPs can't unilaterally decide to block peer-to-peer traffic, slow visits to competitors or otherwise interfere with consumers' ability to access particular sites.