Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks equally. Without strong net neutrality rules, ISPs would have the power to act as gatekeepers of the Internet, potentially blocking or degrading consumers’ access to certain online content or services and giving their own content preferential treatment. For example, ISPs could charge content providers and online retailers extra fees to ensure their data streams flowed to consumers faster and more reliably than their competitors’ data streams.
The debate over net neutrality rules has been over whether broadband Internet access should be classified as an “information service” under Title I of the Communications Act or as a “telecommunication service” Under Title II. This distinction matters because a telecommunications service classification means that ISPs are common carriers that must serve all customers on a nondiscriminatory basis, while information services are exempt from common-carrier regulations. In a victory for net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission has ruled that Internet access is a telecommunications service, a ruling which was upheld in court.
Net Neutrality: Policy
Equal access to online content for all
Policymakers should ensure that ISPs comply with the Federal Communication Commission’s 2016 rules for “network neutrality.”