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.

What 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.

Who wants to get rid of Net Neutrality?

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.

Is Net Neutrality a new regulation?

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

1930s.

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

are

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.

Isn’t the threat to Net Neutrality just hypothetical?

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

turn.

Isn’t this just a battle between giant corporations?

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."

What else are the phone and cable companies not telling the truth about?

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.

What’s at stake if we lose Net Neutrality?

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.

What’s happening in Congress?

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

legislation.

Why did it fail? Because more than a million concerned citizens wrote

and called Congress opposing any bill that didn’t protect Net

Neutrality.

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

Net Neutrality.

Call Congress today: Tell your elected representatives to make Net Neutrality the law now.

Who’s part of the SavetheInternet.com Coalition?

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.

Who else supports Net Neutrality?

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

protections.

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.

What can I do to help?

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.