Net Neutrality


Net neutrality is the principle that all data that travels over internet networks should be treated the same. Without it, internet providers can act as gatekeepers of the internet. These companies can potentially block or degrade consumers’ access to certain online content or services. For example, they could give preference to their own content. Internet service providers (ISPs) could also potentially charge content providers and online retailers extra fees to ensure their data streams flow to consumers faster and more reliably than their competitors’ data streams. 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) previously had a strong net neutrality rule. Courts had upheld this rule. In 2018, the FCC reversed the net neutrality rule. And in 2019, a federal appeals court upheld that reversal. However, the appeals court struck down a provision that blocked states from adopting stronger net neutrality laws. It ruled state laws could stand as long as those laws do not directly conflict with federal regulations. The appeals court ruling cleared the way for a California net neutrality law, passed in 2018, and other state laws to go into effect. 

The debate over net neutrality rules has been over whether high-speed internet access should be classified as an “information service” under Title I of the Communications Act or as a “telecommunications service” under Title II. This distinction matters because classification as a telecommunications service means that ISPs are regulated more rigorously. Title II classifies providers as common carriers that must serve all customers in a nondiscriminatory manner. 



Equal access to online content

Federal policymakers should ensure net neutrality. At a minimum, the net neutrality rules set by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) in 2015 should be reinstated. 

State policymakers should put in place laws and regulations that ensure net neutrality. These laws should be at least as strong as the 2015 FCC rules. 

Consumers should be able to use their high-speed internet service to gain access to, use, send, receive, or offer any lawful content or services over the internet. They should be able to use any applications or services made available over the internet. They should also have the right to attach any device to a high-speed internet network that does not damage or degrade other subscribers’ use of the network. Internet service providers should not be allowed to block, throttle, or otherwise interfere with lawful traffic that is sent and received over their networks, subject to reasonable network management principles.