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VERIFY: What is Net Neutrality?

Find out what the FCC is voting about on December 14.
A small group of protestors supporting net neutrality protest against a plan by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) head Ajit Pai, during a protest outside a Verizon store on December 7, 2017 in Los Angeles / AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck


What is Net Neutrality?


A concept that internet providers should have restricted control over how people use the web. It's the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) way of protecting an 'Open Internet.'


Federal Communications Commission website

Harold Feld, Senior VP, Public Knowledge

Oxford English Dictionary


The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, used to restrict wireless providers like Comcast, Verizon, Cox or RCN, from 'throttling,' 'blocking,' or using 'paid prioritization.' It's the government's way of maintaining and protecting an 'open internet,' allowing consumers to decide how they surf the web.

But the FCC voted 3-2 to repeal government peacekeeping--'Net Neutrality'--and allow wireless providers to have free reign of the internet. The FCC announced its decision on December 14.

To understand why more than 22 million Americans have submitted comments against the repeal of Net Neutrality, it's important to define the key terms.

  • Net Neutrality- The principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites. (Oxford English Dictionary)
    • Example: I can't decide which movie I want to watch. I check Amazon, HBO and Netflix to check my options. Comcast loads all three sites at roughly the same speed. Nothings stuck buffering, nothings blocked.
  • Blocking- Broadband providers may not block access to lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices. (FCC)
    • Example: Comcast decides to no longer let Netflix load--Netflix isn't paying them enough money to make it worth their while. I can only pick between Amazon and HBO.
  • Throttling- Broadband providers may not deliberately target some lawful internet traffic to be delivered to users more slowly than other traffic. (FCC)
    • Example:Comcast loads Amazon and HBO normally, but Netflix is stuck with a spinning wheel of doom.
  • Paid Prioritization- Broadband providers may not favor some internet traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind. Internet service providers are also banned from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.
    • Example: Netflix struck a deal with Comcast and Comcast has decided to let Netflix content load three times as fast as HBO and Amazon content.

Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC, announced his proposal to repeal Net Neutrality in April 2017.

But not everyone thinks removing the internet from government purview is a good thing--like Harold Feld. Feld is VP at Public Knowledge, a lobbyist group that promotes freedom of expression and an open internet.

"This is like on any highway when you create a fast-lane, you take traffic away from everything else so right now everything's distributed along this one pipe--if we say this is the fast-lane this is prioritized there's that much less space for everyone else," Feld said.

If websites begin paying internet providers for faster service, there could be a kickback to consumers for a better browsing experience, or tiered services that mimic cable tv packages.


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