House Energy Chairman to Co-Sponsor Net Neutrality Bill

The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said today that he has signed on as a co-sponsor of a pending net neutrality bill.

"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.

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1 comment about "House Energy Chairman to Co-Sponsor Net Neutrality Bill".
  1. Theresa m. Moore from Antellus , September 18, 2009 at 2:48 p.m.

    I agree with the move to make the internet more integrated by granting users free access to content generated on competing sites. For years, I have frequently been blocked from respnding to emails from consumers by their ISPs, forcing me to sign up with each ISP separately in order to respond. The competition among ISPs should not contstitute restraint of trade between consumer and services, no matter how hot their boardroom battles may be. In a free market, consumers expect free access. They already pay for it through their communication services. Why should they suffer the backwash from ISP competition? What the ISPs don't realize that if they don't act to free up the service, the users will find someone else to host their content. They don't have patience for the lack of consideration they receive.