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What Is Net Neutrality?
When we log onto the Internet, we take a lot for granted. We assume
we’ll be able to access any Web site we want,
whenever we want, at the fastest speed, whether it’s a corporate or
mom-and-pop site. We assume that we can use any service we like — watching online video, listening
to podcasts, sending instant messages — anytime we choose.
What makes all these assumptions possible is Network Neutrality.
Network Neutrality — or "Net Neutrality" for short — is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet.
Put simply, Net Neutrality means no discrimination. Net Neutrality
prevents Internet providers from speeding up or slowing down Web
content based on its source, ownership or destination.
Net Neutrality is the reason why the Internet has driven economic
innovation, democratic participation, and free speech online. It
protects the consumer’s right to use any equipment, content,
application or service on a non-discriminatory basis without
interference from the network provider. With Net Neutrality, the
network’s only job is to move data — not choose which data to privilege
with higher quality service.
Learn more in Net Neutrality 101.
The nation’s largest telephone and cable companies — including
AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner — want to be Internet
gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won’t
load at all.
They want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of
their data. They want to discriminate in favor of their own search
engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video — while slowing
down or blocking their competitors.
These companies have a new vision for the Internet. Instead of an even
playing field, they want to reserve express lanes for their own content
and services — or those from big corporations that can afford the steep
tolls — and leave the rest of us on a winding dirt road.
The big phone and cable companies are spending hundreds of millions of
dollars lobbying Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to
gut Net Neutrality, putting the future of the Internet at risk.
Absolutely not. Net Neutrality has been part of the Internet since its
inception. Pioneers like Vinton Cerf and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the
inventor of the World Wide Web, always intended the Internet to be a
neutral network. And "non-discrimination" provisions like Net
Neutrality have governed the nation’s communications networks since the
But as a consequence of a 2005 decision by the Federal Communications
Commission, Net Neutrality — the foundation of the free and open
Internet — was put in jeopardy. Now cable and phone company lobbyists
pushing to block legislation that would reinstate Net Neutrality.
Writing Net Neutrality into law would preserve the freedoms we
currently enjoy on the Internet. For all their talk about
"deregulation," the cable and telephone giants don’t want real
competition. They want special rules written in their favor.
No. By far the most significant evidence regarding the network owners’ plans to discriminate is their stated intent to do so.
The CEOs of all the largest telecom companies have made clear their
intent to build a tiered Internet with faster service for the select
few companies willing or able to pay the exorbitant tolls. Network
Neutrality advocates are not imagining a doomsday scenario. We are
taking the telecom execs at their word.
So far, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. But numerous examples
show that without network neutrality requirements, Internet service
providers will discriminate against content and competing services they
don’t like. This type of censorship will become the norm unless we act
now. Given the chance, these gatekeepers will consistently put their
own interests before the public good.
The cable and telephone companies already dominate 98 percent of the
broadband access market. And when the network owners start abusing
their control of the pipes, there will be nowhere else for consumers to
No. Our opponents would like to paint this debate as a clash of
corporate titans. But the real story is the millions of everday people
fighting for their Internet freedom.
Small business owners benefit from an Internet that allows them to
compete directly — not one where they can’t afford the price of entry.
Net Neutrality ensures that innovators can start small and dream big
about being the next EBay or Google without facing insurmountable
hurdles. Without Net Neutrality, startups and entrepreneurs will be
muscled out of the marketplace by big corporations that pay for a top
spot on the Web.
If Congress turns the Internet over to the telephone and cable giants,
everyone who uses the Internet will be affected. Connecting to your
office could take longer if you don’t purchase your carrier’s preferred
applications. Sending family photos and videos could slow to a crawl.
Web pages you always use for online banking, access to health care
information, planning a trip, or communicating with friends and family
could fall victim to pay-for-speed schemes.
Independent voices and political groups are especially vulnerable.
Costs will skyrocket to post and share video and audio clips, silencing
bloggers and amplifying the big media companies. Political organizing
could be slowed by the handful of dominant Internet providers who ask
advocacy groups or candidates to pay a fee to join the "fast lane."
AT&T and others have funded a massive misinformation campaign,
filled with deceptive advertising and "Astroturf" groups like Hands Off
the Internet and NetCompetition.org.
Learn how to tell apart the myths from the realities in our report, Network Neutrality: Fact vs. Fiction.
The consequences of a world without Net Neutrality would
be devastating. Innovation would be stifled, competition limited, and
access to information restricted. Consumer choice and the free market
would be sacrificed to the interests of a few corporate executives.
On the Internet, consumers are in ultimate control — deciding between
content, applications and services available anywhere, no matter who
owns the network. There’s no middleman. But without Net Neutrality, the
Internet will look more like cable TV. Network owners will decide which
channels, content and applications are available; consumers will have
to choose from their menu.
The free and open Internet brings with it the revolutionary
possibility that any Internet site could have the reach of
a TV or radio station. The loss of Net Neutrality would end
this unparalleled opportunity for freedom of expression.
The Internet has always been driven by innovation. Web sites and
services succeeded or failed on their own merit. Without Net
Neutrality, decisions now made collectively by millions of users will
be made in corporate boardrooms. The choice we face now is whether we
can choose the content and services we want, or whether the broadband
barons will choose for us.
In 2006, Congress took up a major overhaul of the Telecommunications
Act called the "Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement
Act of 2006," or COPE Act. Despite more than $175 million spent on
lobbying, campaign contributions, deceptive advertising and fake
grassroots groups, the phone and cable companies failed to pass their
Why did it fail? Because more than a million concerned citizens wrote
and called Congress opposing any bill that didn’t protect Net
Now we have a new Congress, which must start work on any new telecom
bill from scratch. The good news is that the new leadership has
expressed its support for Net Neutrality.
In the House, Rep. Ed Markey — who championed a Net Neutrality bill in
2006 — is the new chairman of the key committee shaping new
legislation. In the Senate, Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Olympia
Snowe (R-Maine) have introduced a bipartisan measure, the "Internet
Freedom Preservation Act" that would provide meaningful protection for
Call Congress today: Tell your elected representatives to make Net Neutrality the law now.
The SavetheInternet.com coalition is made up of hundreds of groups from
across the political spectrum that are concerned about maintaining a
free and open Internet. No corporation or political party funds our
efforts. We simply agree to a statement of principles in support of Internet freedom.
The coalition is being coordinated by Free Press, a national,
nonpartisan organization focused on media reform and Internet policy
issues. Please complete this brief survey if your group would like to join this broad, bipartisan effort to save the Internet.
The supporters of Net Neutrality include leading high-tech companies
such as Amazon.com, Earthlink, EBay, Google, Intel, Microsoft,
Facebook, Skype and Yahoo. Prominent national figures such as Internet
pioneer Vint Cerf, Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig, every major
Democratic presidential candidate, and FCC Commissioners Michael Copps
and Jonathan Adelstein have called for stronger Net Neutrality
Editorial boards at the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Seattle Times, St. Petersburg Times and Christian Science Monitor all have urged congress to save the Internet.
Sign the SavetheInternet.com petition.
Call your members of Congress today and demand that Net Neutrality be protected.
Encourage groups you’re part of to sign the "Internet Freedom Declaration of 2007".
Show your support for Internet freedom on your Web site or blog.
Tell your friends about this crucial issue before it’s too late.