What is Net Neutrality & How It Affects You

I'm sure by now you've seen all the hashtags and campaigns to preserve net neutrality, an Obama-era protection under "Title II" that essentially requires all internet service providers, or ISPs, to treat all web traffic equally. Net neutrality is the way the internet has always worked, and basically ensures that when you go online, you can be connected to any website, application, or content you are looking for without interference from cable or telephone companies.


On Thursday, the FCC decided to repeal this regulation, despite widespread opposition from both political parties, which essentially allows ISPs to speed up websites they favor - or slow down, or straight up block certain websites that they don't. In a study from the University of Maryland, the overwhelming majority of Americans (including 3 of 4 Republicans) do not support the new FCC regulations - 83% of Americans do not approve of repealing net neutrality, leaving just 16% saying they do approve. 


What is Net Neutrality?

Without delving into the 400 pages of rules outlining every detail, net neutrality boils down to 3 main rules:

1. No Blocking. This means that a broadband provider cannot block any legal content, applications, services, or non harmful devices.

2. No Throttling. Throttling is intentionally slowing down specific applications or services, a practice that the FCC inhibited ISPs from doing under net neutrality. This ensures that internet service providers cannot single out internet traffic depending on where it is going. This is particularly important in ensuring that ISPs cannot directly inhibit traffic to sites that may be considered competition. 

3. No Paid Prioritization. This means a broadband service provider cannot accept fees or favorited treatment in exchange for faster internet. This prevents internet "fast lanes" and the few companies that can afford to pay to have an advantage in providing their content.


Why does this matter?

Without net neutrality, companies like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon can legally control the content you see. In theory, these companies can slow down their competitor's content, block political opinion's that they disagree with, or charge a fee to content companies who can afford preferential treatment. This is essentially taking away your right to communicate and view content freely, and allowing companies to tailor your content to their agenda. 


This excerpt from Hello Giggles breaks down what the future of the internet could look like without the protection of net neutrality:

"The way we access the internet could quickly start looking like cable TV, with different packages available to access different parts for the web. For example, there could be a basic starter package with access to email and messenger services and websites chosen by your provider. Then a level up and more money could get you a premium package with access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Another level up and additional costs, and you could be able to enjoy access to Netflix and Hulu." -Steph Barnes, Hello Giggles


Why repeal net neutrality?

Some broadband providers claim that these rules prohibit them from managing traffic effectively. Under net neutrality, the FCC requires ISPs to provide a "technically justified rationale" for how they direct content, that cannot be based on business reasons. This means that providers can slow down or redirect internet traffic during times of congestion, as long as they are not singling out or targeting a specific site. Additionally, these ISPs claim that net neutrality discourages them from upgrading and building their networks because the FCC can impose higher rates. 


What can you do?

Congress has the power to reverse the FCC’s vote. You can write or call congress here.

Or, text BATTLE to 384-387. 

Or, donate to Save the Internet or the ACLU.



-Jacquelyn Z.

Founder of Heartman