Net neutrality explained

Internet or network neutrality means no restrictions of any kind on access to web content, no restrictions on downloading or uploading, and no restrictions on communication methods such as email, chat and IM.

This also means that access to the internet will not be blocked, slowed down or accelerated depending on where it is being accessed or who owns the access point. Essentially, the Internet is open to everyone.

  • As of October 27, 2020, the FCC voted to maintain the net neutrality rules that were repealed in 2017. This vote means the big broadband companies can increase prices and throttle bandwidth without any repercussions (if they choose to do so).
  • In December 2020, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a staunch supporter of repealing net neutrality, resigned, sparking speculation that the Biden administration could overturn existing legislation in the future.
  • In January 2021, President Biden appointed Jessica Rosenworcel as Acting Chair of the Federal Communications Commission; she was considered the frontrunner for the permanent job. Rosenworcel is a strong supporter of net neutrality.
  • In February 2021, California won a court ruling allowing the state to enforce its net neutrality law while lawsuits from telecom companies work their way through the courts. The Justice Department recently dropped its lawsuit challenging California’s net neutrality law.
  • In March 2021, technology companies such as Mozilla, Reddit, Dropbox, and Vimeo sent a letter to the FCC formally calling for the restoration of network neutrality.
  • In May 2021, the New York Attorney General's Office discovered that major ISPs committed net neutrality fraud by allowing the lobbying group Broadband for America to send more than 18 million false anti-net neutrality comments to the FCC.
  • In July 2021, as the Biden administration prepared for a net neutrality showdown, President Biden signed a broad order on promoting competition in the U.S. economy that included multiple net neutrality provisions encouraging the FCC to restore net neutrality rules.
  • In October 2021, President Biden nominated Jessica Rosenworcel to lead the FCC and Gigi Sohn for another FCC seat, in what was seen as a push for net neutrality A prelude to a Democratic majority.
  • In January 2022, a federal appeals court upheld California's net neutrality law, rejecting the telecommunications industry's attempts to block the state from enforcing the law. Net neutrality supporters welcomed the ruling but called for a federal net neutrality law.
  • In April 2024, the FCC made a critical decision to reclassify broadband as an essential public utility. The move is aimed at strengthening providers' responsibilities during outages, bolstering cybersecurity, guaranteeing fast speeds and requiring stronger protection of consumer data.

When we go online, we have access to the entire web. This means any website, video, download, or email. We use the Internet to communicate with others, go to school, work, and connect with people around the world. When net neutrality governs the network, this access is granted without any restrictions.

Here are a few reasons why net neutrality is so important:

  • Growth : Net neutrality is why the web has grown at an astonishing rate since it was founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1991.
  • Creativity : Creativity, innovation and unbridled creativity have given us Wikipedia, YouTube, Google, Torrents, Hulu, the Internet Movie Database and more.
  • Communication : Net neutrality allows us to communicate freely with people on an individual basis. Government leaders, business owners, celebrities, colleagues, medical staff, family members, and more can communicate and collaborate without restrictions.

Strong net neutrality rules should be preserved to ensure these things exist and thrive. With the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now approving the repeal of net neutrality rules, everyone who uses the internet is expected to lose these freedoms.

Internet Express Lanes are special deals and channels that provide some companies with special treatment on broadband access and Internet traffic. Many believe this violates the concept of net neutrality.

Internet fast lanes can cause problems because Internet providers don't have to offer the same service to all subscribers regardless of size, company or influence, but can instead make deals with certain companies to give them priority access. This approach could stunt growth, reinforce illegal monopolies, and cost consumers.

Furthermore, an open Internet is essential for the continued free exchange of information, a concept upon which the World Wide Web was built.

No. Governments in some countries, including the United States, now want to or have restricted their citizens' access to the web for political reasons. Vimeo has a great video on this topic that explains how restricting internet access affects everyone in the world.

In the United States, 2015 FCC rules aim to give consumers equal access to online content and prevent broadband providers from favoring their own content. With the FCC voting to eliminate net neutrality on December 14, 2017, these practices will now be allowed as long as they are disclosed.

Yes, as evidenced by the 2017 FCC vote to roll back net neutrality regulations. Many companies have a vested interest in ensuring that network access is not free. These companies already control much of the network's infrastructure, and they see the potential profits in making the network "pay to play."

In 2019, the D.C. Circuit ruled that the FCC was within its rights to revoke net neutrality protections. However, the ruling also said states can enact their own protective measures. There is still a chance that the FCC's revocation could be overturned in the future.

You can still contact your representatives to state your stance on net neutrality on the Fight for the Future's Battle for the Nets website. The website prompts you to fill out information to automatically send an email to your district’s member of Congress. Fill in your name and other requested information, and the site will send you an email.

When you fill out the email form, a message will appear asking if you want to share your actions with the key decision-makers tagged for you via X (formerly Twitter) or Facebook.

If you have your own website, please express your support for the rollback and inform your site's visitors about the issue. Battle For The Net is running a Red Alert campaign which offers a widget; avatar images; X, Facebook and Instagram images; and banner ads that website owners can use to make their own statement on the issue.

Net neutrality is fundamental to the freedom we enjoy online. Losing this freedom can result in consequences such as restricted access to websites and reduced download rights, as well as controlled creativity and company management services. Some are calling this scenario the end of the internet.

There is something new about net neutrality in the context of the Internet. However, the concept of neutral, publicly accessible information and the transfer of information has been around since the days of Alexander Graham Bell. Basic public infrastructure such as subways, buses, phone companies, etc. must not discriminate, restrict, or differentiate public access. This is also the core concept behind net neutrality.

For those of us who appreciate the web and want to preserve the freedom this amazing invention gives us to exchange information, net neutrality is a core concept that we must work hard to uphold.