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net neutrality,the principle or requirement that Internet service providers (ISPs) allow equal access to all Internet content. The issue of insuring net neutrality has become of greater concern as Internet content is increasingly provided by independent entertainment and information services that compete with the television channels and other services offered by ISPs that also provide the high-speed access required to view such Internet content generally. Legal protections to ensure net neutrality typically involve the prohibition of the discriminatory blocking or slowing of access to websites or services offered by content providers that compete with an ISP and the prohibition as well of permitting websites or services faster access to an ISP's subscribers in return for payment by the content provider to the ISP. In 2015 the Federal Communications Commision (FCC) initiated stronger oversight over high-speed Internet delivery, regulating the broadband Internet access provided by ISPs as a public utility in order to ensure the legality of the net neutrality rules it adopted. A change in commissioner membership at the FCC, however, led in 2017 to the reversal of the 2015 rules, effective in 2018. Critics of regulations designed to ensure net neutrality have argued that such regulation discourages innovation, and that competition will ensure equal access, while supporters have noted that most subscribers have access to only one broadband provider who does not have an incentive to provide equal access to competing content, and have argued that limitations on equal access to content providers could discourage the development of independent Internet services and reduce competition among content providers.
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net neutrality(NETwork neutrality) A uniform playing field for Internet transport. Net neutrality is the absence of restrictions placed on the transmission of content by the major ISPs that provide service to millions of homes and offices. It means all packets are delivered on a first-come, first-served basis regardless from where they originated. Net neutrality became an issue as ISPs began to carry more movie streaming and voice traffic from competitors that delivered the same services they offered.
A Very Contentious Topic
Since its inception, the Internet has leveled the playing field for all participants. However, major ISPs such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast have lobbied the FCC to be able to charge a website based on traffic. Although it might seem reasonable to charge sites that disseminate huge amounts of content, Internet users already pay ISPs for access. In addition, proponents warn about the implications down the road if net neutrality were abandoned. For example, owners of all websites might be forced to pay extra fees to prevent their content from bogging down in a low-priority delivery queue.
The July 2010 issue of "The Hightower Lowdown" said: "Forget the technology, net neutrality is about democracy itself-- the latest battleground in our nation's historic struggle for freedom of speech, a free press, and the free flow of information that We the People must have if, in fact, we are to be self-governing."
In 2010, the Open Internet Order of the FCC ruled that carriers cannot block or interfere with traffic because it conflicts with their financial goals. However, in 2014, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the order, stating that the FCC did not prove it had the legal authority to enforce such rules. Later in 2014, the FCC proposed allowing ISPs to create pay-to-play fast lanes; however, that was abandoned after a huge public outcry.
In February 2015, the FCC voted to regulate Internet service as a public utility. Based on certain provisions in Title II of the Communications Act, the new rules treated both wired and wireless Internet connections as a telecom service rather than an information service.
In 2017, the FCC gutted net neutrality, and a federal appeals court upheld the decision in 2019. However, the court allowed states to pass their own protections. As a result, at least 10 states and more than 100 cities have enacted rules that keep net neutrality in some form. For more information, visit www.freepress.net. See dumb network and Freedom to Connect.
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