Net neutrality is the principle of a free and open Internet. It requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to treat the data on their networks equally, fairly, and without special favorable or unfavorable treatment. They may not give preference or better treatment for particular applications, Web sites, or Web services. The rules require Web operators to not interfere with the content and provide all users the same transmission and loading speeds. ISPs must manage their systems based on objective factors like traffic and congestion in peak demand periods. They must deliver data to the destination without delays. They may not give priority to those they favor or to those who pay.
The Common Carrier Principle
The law bases net neutrality on the principle of common carriers. This class of business holds out to the public to do a certain function, and the law requires that it offer everyone the same terms of service. It is like a bus on a city street; it charges every patron the same fare and picks up everyone who wishes to ride. ISPs cannot inhibit some or speed up others as they wish; they cannot deny access to some information and allow others. The common carrier owes a duty to treat everyone fairly, and equally.
The FCC and Net Neutrality
The Federal Communications Commission is an independent federal agency; it has the legal authority to regulate Internet Service Providers. On February 26, 2015 the FCC announced its policy revisions in the light of court challenges to its rules by Verizon. The FCC strongly endorsed the principle of Net Neutrality and rejected proposals for increased ISP authority to restrict the use of the Internet. It was an important policy development as it ensured a free and open Internet rather than one based on corporate priorities such as profits and censorship.
An Open Internet
In endorsing Net Neutrality, the FCC prohibited some proposed practices. Briefly described below, these rules help define net neutrality.
• Blocking. An ISP may not block a consumer request for access to a website or service. This ensures that every business has a chance to compete, and not just those preferred by the ISP.
• Throttling. ISPs may not intentionally slow down some content or speed up others on its networks. Net neutrality forbids a process like “throttling” whether based on the type of service or an ISP’s policies or preferences.
• Transparency. The so-called last mile is the connection between and ISP and a customer; it is the critical bridge to the Internet. The FCC applied net neutrality principles to this phase of Internet service; prohibited preferences and unequal treatment.
• Priority. Net neutrality does not permit gatekeeping structures that create a slow lane for traffic that does not pay an ISP a fee. Paid priority and similar approaches create unfair advantages based on ISP profits and interfere with the Internet as an engine of growth.
The Internet Is an Economic Engine
In a short period of its existence, the Internet has grown to be a central part of everyday life and a key to business growth and formation. It fosters competition; it provides access to markets all over the world. Examples of successful Internet-based businesses include Facebook and Google. Communications increasingly use the Internet, and manufacturers such as Apple produce the leading tools for mobile communications; they design phones and mobile devices to provide constant access to the Internet. Developments such as these came from the free and open Internet.