Net Neutrality 101

Man in office on laptop while holding mobile phone
JGI/Tom Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality means that there are no restrictions of any kind on access to content on the Web, no restrictions on downloads or uploads, and no restrictions on communication methods (email, chat, IM, etc.) It also means that access will not be blocked, slowed down, or sped up depending on where that access is based or who owns the access point(s). 

What does Net Neutrality mean for the average Web user?

When we get on the Web, we are able to access the entire Web: that means any website, any video, any download, any email.

We use the Web to communicate with others, go to school, do our jobs, and connect with people all over the world. Because of the freedom that governs the Web, this access is granted without any restrictions whatsoever.

Why is Net Neutrality important?

Growth: Net neutrality is the reason that the Web has grown at such a phenomenal rate from the time it was created in 1991 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee (see also History of the World Wide Web).

Creativity: Creativity, innovation, and unbridled inventiveness have given us Wikipedia, YouTube, Google, I Can Has Cheezburger, torrents, Hulu, The Internet Movie Database, and many more.

Communication: Net neutrality has given us the ability to communicate with people on a personal basis: government leaders, business owners, celebrities, work colleagues, medical personnel, family, etc., without restrictions.

Is Net Neutrality available worldwide?

No. There are countries whose governments restrict their citizens’ access to the Web for political reasons.


Is Net Neutrality in danger?

Possibly. There are many companies that have a vested interest in making sure that access to the Web is not freely available. These companies are already in charge of most of the Web’s infrastructure, and they see potential profit in making the Web “pay for play”. This could result in restrictions on what Web users are able to search for, download, or read.

What would happen if Net Neutrality were to be restricted or abolished?

Net neutrality is the foundation of the freedom that we enjoy on the Web. Losing that freedom could result in consequences such as restricted access to websites and diminished download rights, as well as controlled creativity and corporate-governed services.

What are "Internet fast lanes"? How are are they related to Net neutrality? 

"Internet fast lanes": special deals and channels that would give some companies exceptional treatment as far as broadband access and Internet traffic. This is generating a virtual firestorm of news and comments, as many people believe that this would violate the concept of net neutrality. 

Internet fast lanes could cause issues because instead of Internet providers being required to provide the same service for all subscribers regardless of size/company/influence, they could be able to make deals with certain companies that would give them preferred access. This practice could potentially hamper growth, strengthen illegal monopolies, and cost the consumer. In addition, net neutrality is essential for a continued free exchange of information - a bedrock concept that the World Wide Web was founded upon.

 If you would like to tell the FCC what you think of Internet fast lanes, you can - join the hundreds of thousands of people on the FCC's comment board who have stated their minds on this very subject. 

Net neutrality is important

Net neutrality in the context of the Web is somewhat new, but the concept of neutral, publicly accessible information and transfer of that information has been around since the days of Alexander Graham Bell. Basic public infrastructure, such as subways, buses, telephone companies, etc., are not allowed to discriminate, restrict, or differentiate common access, and this is the core concept behind net neutrality as well.

For those of us who appreciate the Web, and want to preserve the freedom that this amazing invention has given us to exchange information, net neutrality is a core concept that we must work to maintain.