What is net neutrality and why does it matter?


What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) treat everyone’s data equally – whether that’s an email from your mother, a bank transfer, or a streamed episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. It means that ISPs don’t get to choose which data is sent more quickly, and which sites get blocked or throttled (for example, slowing the delivery of a TV show because it is streamed by a video company that competes with a subsidiary of the ISP) and who has to pay extra. For this reason, some have described net neutrality as the “first amendment of the internet”.

“Net neutrality is basically the principle that keeps the internet open. Without it, big cable companies will be able to slow down certain websites and pick winners and losers on the internet,” said Mark Stanley from Demand Progress, one of the activist groups organizing the day of action.

What is the difference between an internet service provider (ISP) and a content provider?

ISPs, such as Verizon, Comcast, Charter, Verizon, CenturyLink and Cox, provide you with access to the internet. Content companies include Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. In some cases, ISPs are also content providers: for example, Comcast owns NBCUniversal and delivers TV shows through its Xfinity internet service.

Why is net neutrality under threat?

In February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to more strictly regulate ISPs and to enshrine in law the principles of net neutrality.

The vote reclassified wireless and fixed-line broadband service providers as title II “common carriers”, a public utility-type designation that gives the FCC the ability to set rates, open up access to competitors and more closely regulate the industry.


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