“Net Neutrality” is the concept that the government and all internet service providers should treat all data and all users equally on the internet. It is a fundamental element of an open internet on which all users can freely interact. Proponents of net neutrality hold that this freedom significantly contributed to the internet’s revolutionary development and that users should continue to control the content they see and the applications they use without interference. Supporters of net neutrality tend to include such individuals and organizations as consumer advocates, web-based businesses and human rights organizations. They want the internet’s continued openness mandated by law to counteract providers’ abilities to control, block, censor and charge higher prices for a restrained internet. According to proponents of net neutrality, without protective laws, the internet will go the way of Cable TV, controlled by a few huge corporations governing access, content, distribution and cost.
Opponents of net neutrality, who tend to include “heavyweight” providers of telecommunications such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, oppose the concept in several respects. Some opponents claim that “net neutrality” is an empty slogan that actually inhibits innovation by providing no incentive for big investments in further broadband developments. The innovations, including the provision of faster, preferential treatment to users willing to pay for it, will reportedly make providers better able to provide improved access for even more consumers. Furthermore, opponents argue that they have no plans to block content or diminish network performance (which net neutrality supporters do not believe for a nanosecond, citing examples of exactly those blocking/diminishing behaviors already).
In the midst of this ongoing argument, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates internet service providers in the United States. The FCC has moved noticeably from its 2005 position that internet consumers are entitled to essentially “any lawful content, any lawful application, any lawful device, and any provider.” As of April 23, 2014, the FCC Chairman proposed new rules allowing broadband internet service providers the “right to build special lanes” giving faster, preferential treatment to companies willing to pay higher prices for the enhanced service. Pro-net-neutrality forces are angered by this proposal, as the loosening of controls on providers is deemed a harbinger of a “closed internet” in which giants such as Comcast and Verizon command the internet to their advantage.
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