Net neutrality is the principle that governments should mandate Internet service providers to treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.
The term was coined by Columbia University media law professor Tim Wu in 2003, as an extension of the longstanding concept of a common carrier, which was used to describe the role of telephone systems.
A widely cited example of a violation of net neutrality principles was the Internet service provider Comcast's secret slowing ("throttling") of uploads from peer-to-peer file sharing (P2P) applications by using forged packets. Comcast did not stop blocking these protocols, like BitTorrent, until the Federal Communications Commission ordered them to stop. In another minor example, The Madison River Communications company was fined US$15,000 by the FCC, in 2004, for restricting their customers' access to Vonage, which was rivaling their own services. AT&T was also caught limiting access to FaceTime, so only those users who paid for AT&T's new shared data plans could access the application. In July 2017, Verizon Wireless was accused of throttling after users noticed that videos played on Netflix and YouTube were slower than usual, though Verizon commented that it was conducting "network testing" and that net neutrality rules permit "reasonable network management practices".
Research suggests that a combination of policy instruments will help realize the range of valued political and economic objectives central to the network neutrality debate. Combined with strong public opinion, this has led some governments to regulate broadband Internet services as a public utility, similar to the way electricity, gas, and the water supply are regulated, along with limiting providers and regulating the options those providers can offer. In the U.S In April of 2015, the FCC issued its Open Internet Order, which controversially reclassified Internet access - previously classified as an information service - as a common carrier telecommunications service; i.e. a public utility. But on December 14, 2017, the Commission, which was led by Chairman Ajit Pai, voted to partially repeal the 2015 Open Internet Order, classifying Internet access once again as an information service.
Network neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. Internet traffic includes all of the different messages, files and data sent over the Internet, including, for example, emails, digital audio files, digital video files, etc. According to Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu, the best way to explain network neutrality is that a public information network will end up being most useful if all content, websites, and platforms (e.g., mobile devices, video game consoles, etc.) are treated equally.
A more detailed proposed definition of technical and service network neutrality suggests that service network neutrality is the loyalty to the paradigm that operation of a service at a certain layer is not influenced by any data other than the data interpreted at that layer, and in accordance with the protocol specification for that layer.
Under an "open Internet" schema, the full resources of the Internet and means to operate on it should be easily accessible to all individuals, companies, and organizations.
Applicable concepts include: net neutrality, open standards, transparency, lack of Internet censorship, and low barriers to entry. The concept of the open Internet is sometimes expressed as an expectation of decentralized technological power, and is seen by some observers as closely related to open-source software, a type of software program whose maker allows users access to the code that runs the program, so that users can improve the software or fix bugs.
Proponents of net neutrality see this as an important component of an "open Internet", wherein policies such as equal treatment of data and open web standards allow those using the Internet to easily communicate, and conduct business and activities without interference from a third party.
In contrast, a "closed Internet" refers to the opposite situation, wherein established persons, corporations, or governments favor certain uses, restrict access to necessary web standards, artificially degrade some services, or explicitly filter out content. Some countries block certain websites or types of sites, and monitor and/or censor Internet use using Internet police, a specialized type of law enforcement, or secret police.
The concept of a "dumb network", comprising "dumb pipes", has been around since at least the early 1990s. The term "dumb network" refers to a network which is set up but has little or no control or management of the way users make use of the network. The term "dumb pipes" is analogous to water pipes used in a city water supply system; in theory, these pipes provide a steady supply of water to all users, regardless of the identity of the user or the users' activities with the water.
In a "dumb network", the endpoints are thought to be where the intelligence lies, and as such, proponents argue that the network should leave the management and operation of communications and data transfer to the end users, not a government bureau or Internet company. In 2013, the software company MetroTech Net, Inc. (MTN) coined the term "dumb wave", which is the 2010s-era application of the "dumb pipe" concept to the ubiquitous wireless network.
The end-to-end principle of network design was first laid out in the 1981 paper End-to-end arguments in system design by Jerome H. Saltzer, David P. Reed, and David D. Clark. The principle states that, whenever possible, communications protocol operations should be defined to occur at the end-points of a communications system, or as close as possible to the resources being controlled. According to the end-to-end principle, protocol features are only justified in the lower layers of a system if they are a performance optimization; hence, TCP retransmission for reliability is still justified, but efforts to improve TCP reliability should stop after peak performance has been reached.
They argued that reliable systems tend to require end-to-end processing to operate correctly, in addition to any processing in the intermediate system. They pointed out that most features in the lowest level of a communications system have costs for all higher-layer clients, even if those clients do not need the features, and are redundant if the clients have to re-implement the features on an end-to-end basis. This leads to the model of a minimal dumb network with smart terminals, a completely different model from the previous paradigm of the smart network with dumb terminals. Because the end-to-end principle is one of the central design principles of the Internet, and because the practical means for implementing data discrimination violate the end-to-end principle, the principle often enters discussions about net neutrality. The end-to-end principle is closely related, and sometimes seen as a direct precursor to the principle of net neutrality.
Traffic shaping is the control of computer network traffic to optimize or guarantee performance, improve latency (i.e., decrease Internet response times), and/or increase usable bandwidth by delaying "packets" that meet certain criteria. In practice, traffic shaping is often accomplished by "throttling" certain types of data, such as streaming video or P2P file sharing. More specifically, traffic shaping is any action on a set of packets (often called a stream or a flow) which imposes additional delay on those packets such that they conform to some predetermined constraint (a contract or traffic profile). Traffic shaping provides a means to control the volume of traffic being sent into a network in a specified period (bandwidth throttling), or the maximum rate at which the traffic is sent (rate limiting), or more complex criteria such as generic cell rate algorithm.
If the core of a network has more bandwidth than is permitted to enter at the edges, then good quality of service (QoS) can be obtained without policing or throttling. For example, landline telephone network employs admission control to limit user demand on the network core by refusing to create a circuit for the requested connection. During a natural disaster, for example, most users will get a busy signal if they pick up a landline phone, as the phone company prioritizes 9-1-1 and other emergency calls. Over-provisioning is a form of statistical multiplexing that makes liberal estimates of peak user demand. Over-provisioning is used in private networks such as WebEx and the Internet 2 Abilene Network, an American university network. David Isenberg believes that continued over-provisioning will always provide more capacity for less expense than QoS and deep packet inspection technologies.
Device Neutrality is the principle that, in order to ensure freedom of choice and freedom of communication to users, it is not sufficient that network operators do not interfere with their choices and activities, but that also that they must be free to use the applications of their choice and hence remove the applications they don't want.
It can be defined with the following analogy to Network Neutrality:
Network Neutrality: Discrimination of traffic management or pricing with anticompetitive purposes can be pursued by the Antitrust authority but the cases require many years and are very costly, something that favours large companies over small companies and startups. Under the "Net Neutrality" concept, some ex ante principles are codified and a judicial route, far simpler and more direct, is defined, when compared with an antitrust case. In general legal terms, does this mean that traffic management policies can not be applied? No, it just means that the eventual management must be the same for everyone, including that of the telecom operator itself, compared to other competing companies. If such a discrimination takes place, it is possible to legally intervene with simpler and quicker legal instruments compared to antitrust cases.
Device neutrality: Discrimination of application installation or pricing with anticompetitive purposes can be pursued by the Antitrust authority but the cases require many years and are very costly, something that favours large companies over small companies and startups. Under the "Device Neutrality" concept, some ex ante principles are codified and a judicial route, far simpler and more direct, is defined, when compared with an antitrust case. In general legal terms, does this mean that application installation policies can not be applied? No, it just means that the eventual management must be the same for everyone, including that of the platform operator itself, compared to other competing companies. If such a discrimination takes place, it is possible to legally intervene with simpler and quicker legal instruments compared to antitrust cases.
A bill to enforce Network and Device Neutrality has been introduced in Italy in 2015 and was stopped at the final vote at the Senate in 2017, after many successful votes at the Chamber of Deputies and through all Senate committees, thanks to lobbying efforts by some multinational device manufaturers and telecom operators . The law has gained formal support at the European Commission by BEUC, the European federation of consumer protection associations, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Hermes Center for Transparency and digital human rights. A law with identic principles has been passed in South Korea and the French telecoms regulator ARCEP has called for the introduction of Device Neutrality in Europe.
Discrimination by protocol is the favoring or blocking information based on aspects of the communications protocol that the computers are using to communicate. In the US, a complaint was filed with the Federal Communications Commission against the cable provider Comcast alleging they had illegally inhibited users of its high-speed Internet service from using the popular file-sharing software BitTorrent. Comcast admitted no wrongdoing in its proposed settlement of up to US$16 dollars per share in December 2009. However, a U.S. appeals court ruled in April 2010 that the FCC exceeded its authority when it sanctioned Comcast in 2008 for deliberately preventing some subscribers from using peer-to-peer file-sharing services to download large files. However, the FCC spokeswoman Jen Howard responded, "the court in no way disagreed with the importance of preserving a free and open Internet, nor did it close the door to other methods for achieving this important end [goal]". Despite the ruling in favor of Comcast, a study by Measurement Lab in October 2011 verified that Comcast had virtually stopped its BitTorrent throttling practices.
During the 1990s, creating a non-neutral Internet was technically infeasible. Originally developed to filter harmful malware, the Internet security company NetScreen Technologies released network firewalls in 2003 with so-called deep packet inspection capabilities. Deep packet inspection helped make real-time discrimination between different kinds of data possible, and is often used for Internet censorship. In a practice called zero-rating, companies will reimburse data use from certain addresses, favoring use of those services. Examples include Facebook Zero and Google Free Zone. These zero-rating practices are especially common in the developing world.
Sometimes Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will charge some companies, but not others, for the traffic they cause on the ISP's network. French telecom operator Orange, complaining that traffic from YouTube and other Google sites consists of roughly 50% of total traffic on the Orange network, made a deal with Google, in which they charge Google for the traffic incurred on the Orange network. Some also thought that Orange's rival ISP Free throttled YouTube traffic. However, an investigation done by the French telecommunications regulatory body revealed that the network was simply congested during peak hours.
Proponents of net neutrality argue that without new regulations, Internet service providers would be able to favor their own private protocols over others. ISPs are able to encourage the use of specific services by utilizing private networks to discriminate what data is counted against bandwidth caps. For example, Comcast struck a deal with Microsoft that allowed users to stream television through the Xfinity app on their Xbox 360s without it affecting their bandwidth limit. However, utilizing other television streaming apps, such as Netflix, HBO Go, and Hulu, counted towards the limit. Comcast denied that this infringed on net neutrality principles since "it runs its Xfinity for Xbox service on its own, private Internet protocol network".
There is some disagreement about whether "peering" is a net neutrality issue. In the first quarter of 2014, streaming website Netflix reached an arrangement with ISP Comcast to improve the quality of its service to Netflix clients. This arrangement was made in response to increasingly slow connection speeds through Comcast over the course of 2013, where average speeds dropped by over 25% of their values a year before to an all-time low. After the deal was struck in January 2014, the Netflix speed index recorded a 66% increase in connection. Netflix agreed to a similar deal with Verizon in 2014, after Verizon DSL customers' connection speed dropped to less than 1 Mbit/s early in the year. Netflix spoke out against this deal with a controversial statement delivered to all Verizon customers experiencing low connection speeds, using the Netflix client. This sparked an internal debate between the two companies that led to Verizon's obtaining a cease and desist order on 5 June 2014 that forced Netflix to stop displaying this message.
Pro-net neutrality arguments have also noted that regulations are also necessary due to research that has shown low-tolerance to slow-loading content providers. In a 2009 research study conducted by Forrester Research, online shoppers expected the web pages they visited to download content instantly. When a page fails to load at the expected speed, many of them simply click out. A study found that even a one-second delay could lead to "11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and 7% loss in conversions".
Legal enforcement of net neutrality principles takes a variety of forms, from provisions that outlaw anti-competitive blocking and "throttling" of Internet services, all the way to legal enforcement that prevents companies from subsidizing Internet use on particular sites. Contrary to popular rhetoric and statements by various individuals involved in the ongoing academic debate, research suggests that a single policy instrument (such as a no-blocking policy or a quality of service tiering policy) cannot achieve the range of valued political and economic objectives central to the debate. As Bauer and Obar suggest, "safeguarding multiple goals requires a combination of instruments that will likely involve government and nongovernment measures. Furthermore, promoting goals such as the freedom of speech, political participation, investment, and innovation calls for complementary policies."
The Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the Internet (in Portuguese: Marco Civil da Internet, officially Law No 12.965) became law on April 23, 2014 at the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance. It governs the use of the Internet in Brazil, through forecasting principles, guarantees, rights and duties to those who use the network as well as the determination of guidelines for state action. The legislation was used as basis to block the popular WhatsApp application in Brazilian territory, a decision lifted soon afterwards, experts claiming that it was, in actuality, against the Framework, which was misinterpreted by the judiciary.
Indihome, a subsidiary of Telkom Indonesia, is deliberately blocking Netflix and claimed that it is due to censorship and pornographic contents. On the other hand, it promotes Iflix, a malaysian-based company that provides similar service as Netflix. Ironically the M-17 rated contents are also available on Iflix without further censorship from the provider.
In a January 25, 2011 decision, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled that usage-based billing could be introduced. Prime Minister Harper signaled that the government may be looking into the ruling: "We're very concerned about CRTC's decision on usage-based billing and its impact on consumers. I've asked for a review of the decision." Some have suggested that the ruling adversely affects net neutrality, since it discriminates against media that is larger in size, such as audio and video.
On 13 June 2010, the National Congress of Chile amended the country's telecommunications law in order to preserve network neutrality, becoming the first country in the world to do so. The law, published on 26 August 2010, added three articles to the General Law of Telecommunications, forbidding ISPs from arbitrarily blocking, interfering with, discriminating, hindering or restricting an Internet user's right to use, send, receive or offer any legal content, application, service or any other type of legal activity or use through the Internet. ISPs must offer Internet access in which content is not arbitrarily treated differently based on its source or ownership.
On 8 February 2016, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) banned differential pricing of data services. As per TRAI's press release, the regulator had multiple responses soliciting different opinions with respect to its consultation paper. Considering all the responses, the regulator decided to have an ex ante regulation instead of a case by case tariff investigation regime. According to the TRAI this decision was reached in order to give the industry participants the much needed certainty and in view of the high costs of regulation in terms of time and resources that will be required for investigating each case of tariff discrimination. Ruling prohibits any service provider from offering or charging discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content and also prohibits any agreement or contract which might have effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services or may assist the service provider in any manner to evade the regulation. It also specifies financial disincentives for contravention of regulation. However, the ruling does not prescribe a blanket ban on differential pricing and provides an exception in case of public emergency or for providing emergency services. Discriminatory tariffs are allowed in the case of an emergency. Lastly, according to TRAI this ruling should not be considered the end of the net neutrality debate. The regulator has promised to keep a close view on the developments in the market and may undertake a review after two years or at an earlier date, as it may deem fit.
In March 2015, the TRAI released a formal consultation paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services, seeking comments from the public. The consultation paper was criticised for being one-sided and having confusing statements. It was condemned by various politicians and Internet users. By 24 April 2015, over a million emails had been sent to TRAI demanding net neutrality. The consultation period ended on January 7, 2016.
Violations of net neutrality have been common in India. Examples beyond Facebook's Internet.org include Aircel's Wikipedia Zero along with Aircel's free access to Facebook and WhatsApp, Airtel's free access to Google, and Reliance's free access to Twitter.
Facebook's Free Basics program is seen by activists as a net neutrality violation, based on its provision of free-of-cost access to dozens of sites, in collaboration with telecom operators. There were protests online and on ground against the Free Basics program. The Free Software Movement of India also held a protest in Hyderabad and parts of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
On June 4, 2012, the Netherlands became the first country in Europe and the second in the world, after Chile, to enact a network neutrality law. The main provision of the law requires that "Providers of public electronic communication networks used to provide Internet access services as well as providers of Internet access services will not hinder or slow down services or applications on the Internet".
As part of the European Union, Portugal is bound to the laws protecting net neutrality established by the EU in 2002. However, the Portuguese government still allows for certain kinds of pricing models which are banned under most net neutrality rules. They allow for broadband providers to offer special pricing packages in which customers can pay for extra data that is only designated for the use of specific websites. For example, one package allows customers to pay extra for more data that can be used for social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. However, many supporters of net neutrality in Portugal have objected to this pricing model on the grounds that it creates another barrier to entry for all internet companies that are not included in the special data packages . These kinds of pricing packages are not specifically addressed in the EU net neutrality rules, so they have been allowed to continue. However, on February 28, 2018, Anacom, the telecommunications regulatory agency in Portugal, accused the country’s main broadband providers, MEO, NOS, and Vodafone, of violating the EU rules on net neutrality with their extra data packages. They granted the providers up to forty days to change their pricing packages . However, the law does not specify what sanctions are appropriate, leading to an unclear future in this ongoing battle.
After almost 4 years of discussion, in early 2016 Federal Antimonopoly Service approved a regulation blocking ISPs from throttling or otherwise blocking any websites apart from those blocked at the request of the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, thus protecting net neutrality in Russia.
In 2014 and 2015, there were efforts to charge over-the-top content (OTT) providers (companies that provide streaming video). Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) has a Policy Framework for net neutrality that did not allow a surcharge. Consumers also argued that they already pay for their service and that they shouldn't have to pay more to access the sites they want to.
At the end of 2012, Slovenia legislated a law of electronic communication implementing a strong principle of net neutrality. Slovenia thus became the second country in Europe to enact a net neutrality law. The Government Agency for Communications, Networks and Services (AKOS) is enforcing the law and executes inspections. In January 2015 it found zero-rating infringements at the two largest mobile network providers, Telekom Slovenije and Si.mobil (now A1), which were respectively “zero-rating the Deezer music service and the ‘Hangar mapa’ cloud storage service." In response, AKOS banned zero rating for all services except three owned by the state incumbent. For this, AKOS was sued by Slovenia’s telecom operators for violating their own net neutrality rules. A month later the agency found similar infringements at Amis (now Simobil) and Tušmobil (now Telemach). In July 2016 the Administrative Court of the Republic of Slovenia annulled the January 2015 AKOS decisions regarding price discrimination, stating that since it does not “restrict, delay or slow down Internet traffic at the level of individual services or applications” it does not violate net neutrality. The court also said that the Slovenian Electronic Communications Act “does not prohibit zero rating outright." This ruling was in accordance with the Competition Protection Agency (CPA), who felt that the “prohibition of zero-rated services may have been detrimental rather than beneficial for consumers." Four months after the ruling of the Administrative Court, in November 2016, AKOS found Telekom Slovenije and Si.mobil in violation of net neutrality laws for discriminating against non-zero-rated traffic for customers who exceeded their monthly data limits.
As of 2016, there is no law on net neutrality in South Africa. A White Paper was to be published by the South African government in March, 2015, but it has not been published yet. However, the telecommunications regulator ICASA, and the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services has been engaged in this debate. In March 2014, ICASA invited comments to its “Notice of Public Inquiry into the State of Competition in the Information and Communications Technology Sector”, in which net neutrality was brought up, and comments were invited on the stakeholders' views on enforcement of net neutrality in South Africa.
Simultaneously, DTPS was in the process of providing an integrated ICT policy review, to provide recommendations on various issues of ICT policy in South Africa. They published a Green Paper and invited comments to the same. The Green Paper did not venture into the debate of net neutrality in detail and simply stated that it is an issue that must be taken into consideration. Following the Green Paper, a Discussion Paper was published in November, 2014, which also invited comments. Lastly, a Final Report was published in June, 2015 by DTPS providing its policy recommendations. DTPS recommended that the broad tenets of net neutrality be adopted, with principles such as transparency, no blocking of lawful content, and no unreasonable discrimination in mind. They urged the government to set appropriate exceptions to the application of network neutrality principles, such as emergency services, blocking of unlawful content, etc.
In 2007, Plusnet was using deep packet inspection to implement limits and differential charges for peer-to-peer, file transfer protocol, and online game traffic. However, their network management philosophy was made clear for each package they sold, and was consistent between different websites.
In 2005, under Republican Chair Abernathy, the FCC adopted policies and rules establishing principles of “network neutrality” in order to carry out the policy of the United States “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet” and “to promote the continued development of the Internet," “encourag[ing] the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability” – broadband – “to all Americans.”.  The FCC noted that Congress had cited the Internet's educational and informational importance, and the fact that "[t]he Internet also represents “a forum for a true diversity of political discourse, unique opportunities for cultural development, and myriad avenues for intellectual activity," as well as "play[ing] an important role in the economy, as an engine for productivity growth and cost savings."
In order "to ensure that providers of telecommunications for Internet access or Internet Protocol-enabled (IP-enabled) services are operated in a neutral manner," and noting that its "Enforcement Bureau recently entered into a consent decree to resolve an investigation with respect to the blocking of ports used for voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)," the Commission adopted network neutrality principles "to preserve and promote the vibrant and open character of the Internet as the telecommunications marketplace enters the broadband age." The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said, however, that because the FCC had previously said broadband Internet access services were not common carrier services, the common carrier network neutrality regulations exceeded the authority the FCC had imposed on itself. Therefore, in 2015, the FCC changed its analysis, reclassified retail providers of BIAS as common carriers, and adopted revised open Internet requirements.
Following the ruling in Verizon Communications Inc. v. FCC (2014), between July 15 and September 15, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received 3.7 million comments to change the Internet to a telecommunications service, which would allow the FCC to uphold net neutrality. On 26 February 2015, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality by reclassifying broadband access as a telecommunications service, thus applying common carrier protections under Title II of the Communications Act and section 706 of the Telecommunications Act to Internet service providers. On 12 March 2015, the FCC released the specific details of its new net neutrality rule. And on 13 April 2015, the FCC published the final rule on its new regulations. The rule took effect on June 12, 2015.
In 2015, the United States Telecom Association, which represents large telecom companies, filed a lawsuit against the FCC challenging the net neutrality rule. The Association argued that the FCC's classification of broadband carriers as "common carriers" was a form of administrative overreach. In June 2016, a divided panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the FCC's net neutrality rules and the FCC's determination that broadband access is a public utility, rather than a luxury.
In January 2017, the Trump administration took office and Ajit Varadaraj Pai was appointed as FCC commissioner. On April 29, 2017, Pai released a proposal suggesting reclassification of broadband access as an information service and a decrease in legal regulations on Internet service providers. In his proposal, Pai also suggested redirecting oversight authority for privacy practices from the FCC to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is a smaller agency without rulemaking authority. Lastly, Pai pushed for a reevaluation of whether to maintain, modify, or eliminate the Title II Order bright-line rules that prevent ISPs from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing certain websites.
Advocates for an open Internet argued that the policies that Pai intended to dismantle help maintain the Internet's role in economic growth, innovation, civic empowerment, and free speech.
On November 21, 2017, FCC chairman Ajit Pai unveiled plans to repeal the United States' net neutrality policy. Twenty internet pioneers, including the inventor of the worldwide web, Tim Berners Lee, wrote an open letter to the pertinent House and Senate subcommittees, asking that they urge the FCC to cancel its vote to repeal net neutrality. That vote took place on December 14, 2017 where the tally was 3 for and 2 against repealing net neutrality rules. The two dissenting commissioners, Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel (both Democrats), released a dissenting statement. Less than an hour after the results were declared, Attorney Generals for the states of Washington and New York announced that they intended to sue the FCC over its decision.
On February 2, 2018, the FCC informed the Senate of its plans to repeal net neutrality rules. This gave Congress 60 days to stop the repeal with the Congressional Review Act (CRA) before they can no longer do so. Both the Senate and House must pass the CRA measure for the repeal to succeed.
Article 3 of EU Regulation 2015/2120 sets the basic framework for ensuring net neutrality across the entire European Union. However, the regulation's text has been criticized as offering loopholes that can undermine the regulation's effectiveness. Some EU member states, such as Slovenia and the Netherlands, have stronger net neutrality laws. In Germany mobile device ISP's like Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone are offering services that might be seen as undermining net neutrality. The government agency overseeing the market (Bundesnetzagentur) stated, in general these plans are in alignment with net neutrality but forced the companies to adapt some changes.
Proponents of net neutrality regulations include consumer advocates, human rights organizations such as Article 19, online companies and some technology companies. Many major Internet application companies are advocates of neutrality. Yahoo!, Vonage, eBay, Amazon, IAC/InterActiveCorp, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr, Etsy, Daily Kos, Greenpeace, along with many other companies and organizations, have also taken a stance in support of net neutrality. Cogent Communications, an international Internet service provider, has made an announcement in favor of certain net neutrality policies.
In 2008, Google published a statement speaking out against letting broadband providers abuse their market power to affect access to competing applications or content. They further equated the situation to that of the telephony market, where telephone companies are not allowed to control who their customers call or what those customers are allowed to say. However, Google's support of net neutrality was called into question in 2014. Several civil rights groups, such as the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, and Fight for the Future support net neutrality.
Individuals who support net neutrality include World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, Vinton Cerf, Lawrence Lessig, Robert W. McChesney, Steve Wozniak, Susan P. Crawford, Marvin Ammori, Ben Scott, David Reed, and former U.S. President Barack Obama. On 10 November 2014, Obama recommended that the FCC reclassify broadband Internet service as a telecommunications service in order to preserve net neutrality. On 12 November 2014, AT&T stopped build-out of their fiber network until it has "solid net neutrality rules to follow". On 31 January 2015, AP News reported that the FCC will present the notion of applying ("with some caveats") Title II (common carrier) of the Communications Act of 1934 and section 706 of the Telecommunications act of 1996 to the Internet in a vote expected on 26 February 2015.
Supporters of net neutrality in the United States want to designate cable companies as common carriers, which would require them to allow Internet service providers (ISPs) free access to cable lines, the same model used for dial-up Internet. They want to ensure that cable companies cannot screen, interrupt or filter Internet content without a court order. Common carrier status would give the FCC the power to enforce net neutrality rules. SaveTheInternet.com accuses cable and telecommunications companies of wanting the role of gatekeepers, being able to control which websites load quickly, load slowly, or do not load at all. According to SaveTheInternet.com these companies want to charge content providers who require guaranteed speedy data delivery – to create advantages for their own search engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video services – and slowing access or blocking access to those of competitors. Vinton Cerf, a co-inventor of the Internet Protocol and current vice president of Google, argues that the Internet was designed without any authorities controlling access to new content or new services. He concludes that the principles responsible for making the Internet such a success would be fundamentally undermined were broadband carriers given the ability to affect what people see and do online. Cerf has also written about the importance of looking at problems like Net Neutrality through a combination of the Internet's layered system and the multistakeholder model that governs it. He shows how challenges can arise that can implicate Net Neutrality in certain infrastructure-based cases, such as when ISPs enter into exclusive arrangements with large building owners, leaving the residents unable to exercise any choice in broadband provider.
Proponents of net neutrality argue that a neutral net will foster free speech and lead to further democratic participation on the Internet. Former Senator Al Franken from Minnesota fears that without new regulations, the major Internet Service Providers will use their position of power to stifle people’s rights. He calls net neutrality the "First Amendment issue of our time". By ensuring that all people and websites have equal access to each other, regardless of their ability to pay, proponents of net neutrality wish to prevent the need to pay for speech and the further centralization of media power. Lawrence Lessig and Robert W. McChesney argue that net neutrality ensures that the Internet remains a free and open technology, fostering democratic communication. Lessig and McChesney go on to argue that the monopolization of the Internet would stifle the diversity of independent news sources and the generation of innovative and novel web content.
Proponents of net neutrality invoke the human psychological process of adaptation where when people get used to something better, they would not ever want to go back to something worse. In the context of the Internet, the proponents argue that a user who gets used to the "fast lane" on the Internet would find the "slow lane" intolerable in comparison, greatly disadvantaging any provider who is unable to pay for the "fast lane". Video providers Netflix and Vimeo in their comments to FCC in favor of net neutrality use the research of S.S. Krishnan and Ramesh Sitaraman that provides the first quantitative evidence of adaptation to speed among online video users. Their research studied the patience level of millions of Internet video users who waited for a slow-loading video to start playing. Users who had a faster Internet connectivity, such as fiber-to-the-home, demonstrated less patience and abandoned their videos sooner than similar users with slower Internet connectivity. The results demonstrate how users can get used to faster Internet connectivity, leading to higher expectation of Internet speed, and lower tolerance for any delay that occurs. Author Nicholas Carr and other social commentators have written about the habituation phenomenon by stating that a faster flow of information on the Internet can make people less patient.
Net neutrality advocates argue that allowing cable companies the right to demand a toll to guarantee quality or premium delivery would create an exploitative business model based on the ISPs position as gatekeepers. Advocates warn that by charging websites for access, network owners may be able to block competitor Web sites and services, as well as refuse access to those unable to pay. According to Tim Wu, cable companies plan to reserve bandwidth for their own television services, and charge companies a toll for priority service. Proponents of net neutrality argue that allowing for preferential treatment of Internet traffic, or tiered service, would put newer online companies at a disadvantage and slow innovation in online services. Tim Wu argues that, without network neutrality, the Internet will undergo a transformation from a market ruled by innovation to one ruled by deal-making. SaveTheInternet.com argues that net neutrality puts everyone on equal terms, which helps drive innovation. They claim it is a preservation of the way the Internet has always operated, where the quality of websites and services determined whether they succeeded or failed, rather than deals with ISPs. Lawrence Lessig and Robert W. McChesney argue that eliminating net neutrality would lead to the Internet resembling the world of cable TV, so that access to and distribution of content would be managed by a handful of massive, near monopolistic companies, though there are multiple service providers in each region. These companies would then control what is seen as well as how much it costs to see it. Speedy and secure Internet use for such industries as healthcare, finance, retailing, and gambling could be subject to large fees charged by these companies. They further explain that a majority of the great innovators in the history of the Internet started with little capital in their garages, inspired by great ideas. This was possible because the protections of net neutrality ensured limited control by owners of the networks, maximal competition in this space, and permitted innovators from outside access to the network. Internet content was guaranteed a free and highly competitive space by the existence of net neutrality. For example, back in 2005 YouTube was just a small startup company. Due to an absence of Internet fast lanes, YouTube had the ability to grow larger than Google Video. Tom Wheeler and Senators Ronald Lee Wyden (D-Ore.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) said, “Internet service providers treated YouTube’s videos the same as they did Google’s, and Google couldn’t pay the ISPs [internet service providers] to gain an unfair advantage, like a fast lane into consumers’ homes,” they wrote. “Well, it turned out that people liked YouTube a lot more than Google Video, so YouTube thrived.”
Net neutrality advocates have sponsored legislation claiming that authorizing incumbent network providers to override transport and application layer separation on the Internet would signal the decline of fundamental Internet standards and international consensus authority. Further, the legislation asserts that bit-shaping the transport of application data will undermine the transport layer's designed flexibility.
Alok Bhardwaj, founder of Epic Privacy Browser, argues that any violations to network neutrality, realistically speaking, will not involve genuine investment but rather payoffs for unnecessary and dubious services. He believes that it is unlikely that new investment will be made to lay special networks for particular websites to reach end-users faster. Rather, he believes that non-net neutrality will involve leveraging quality of service to extract remuneration from websites that want to avoid being slowed down. This theory was confirmed in 2014 when Netflix announced it was making payments to Comcast and Verizon to avoid throttling, slower internet speeds for particular services or websites, by those ISPs. These payments were described by Netflix founder Reed Hastings as "an arbitrary tax" and "arbitrary interconnection tolls".
Some advocates say network neutrality is needed in order to maintain the end-to-end principle. According to Lawrence Lessig and Robert W. McChesney, all content must be treated the same and must move at the same speed in order for net neutrality to be true. They say that it is this simple but brilliant end-to-end aspect that has allowed the Internet to act as a powerful force for economic and social good. Under this principle, a neutral network is a dumb network, merely passing packets regardless of the applications they support. This point of view was expressed by David S. Isenberg in his paper, "The Rise of the Stupid Network". He states that the vision of an intelligent network is being replaced by a new network philosophy and architecture in which the network is designed for always-on use, not intermittence and scarcity. Rather than intelligence being designed into the network itself, the intelligence would be pushed out to the end-user's device; and the network would be designed simply to deliver bits without fancy network routing or smart number translation. The data would be in control, telling the network where it should be sent. End-user devices would then be allowed to behave flexibly, as bits would essentially be free and there would be no assumption that the data is of a single data rate or data type.
Contrary to this idea, the research paper titled End-to-end arguments in system design by Saltzer, Reed, and Clark argues that network intelligence does not relieve end systems of the requirement to check inbound data for errors and to rate-limit the sender, nor for a wholesale removal of intelligence from the network core.
Opponents of net neutrality regulations include Internet service providers (ISPs), broadband and telecommunications companies, computer hardware manufacturers, economists and notable technologists. Many of the major hardware and telecommunications companies specifically oppose the reclassification of broadband as a common carrier under Title II. Corporate opponents of this measure include Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, IBM, Intel, Cisco, Nokia, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Juniper, D-Link, Wintel, Alcatel-Lucent, Corning, Panasonic, Ericsson, and others.
Nobel Memorial Prize-winning economist Gary Becker's paper titled, "Net Neutrality and Consumer Welfare", published by the Journal of Competition Law & Economics, argues that claims by net neutrality proponents "do not provide a compelling rationale for regulation" because there is "significant and growing competition" among broadband access providers. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt states that, while Google views that similar data types should not be discriminated against, it is okay to discriminate across different data types—a position that both Google and Verizon generally agree on, according to Schmidt. According to the Journal, when President Barack Obama announced his support for strong net neutrality rules late in 2014, Schmidt told a top White House official the president was making a mistake. Google has since supported net neutrality.
Individuals who oppose net neutrality include TCP/IP inventor Bob Kahn,, Marc Andreessen, Scott McNealy, Peter Thiel, David Farber, Nicholas Negroponte, Rajeev Suri, Jeff Pulver, Mark Cuban and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
Several civil rights groups, such as the National Urban League, Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH, and League of United Latin American Citizens, also oppose Title II net neutrality regulations, who said that the call to regulate broadband Internet service as a utility would harm minority communities by stifling investment in underserved areas.
A number of other opponents created Hands Off The Internet, a website created in 2006 to promote arguments against Internet regulation. Principal financial support for the website came from AT&T, and members included BellSouth, Alcatel, Cingular, and Citizens Against Government Waste.
Robert Pepper, a senior managing director, global advanced technology policy, at Cisco Systems, and former FCC chief of policy development, says: "The supporters of net neutrality regulation believe that more rules are necessary. In their view, without greater regulation, service providers might parcel out bandwidth or services, creating a bifurcated world in which the wealthy enjoy first-class Internet access, while everyone else is left with slow connections and degraded content. That scenario, however, is a false paradigm. Such an all-or-nothing world doesn't exist today, nor will it exist in the future. Without additional regulation, service providers are likely to continue doing what they are doing. They will continue to offer a variety of broadband service plans at a variety of price points to suit every type of consumer". Computer scientist Bob Kahn has said net neutrality is a slogan that would freeze innovation in the core of the Internet.
Farber has written and spoken strongly in favor of continued research and development on core Internet protocols. He joined academic colleagues Michael Katz, Christopher Yoo, and Gerald Faulhaber in an op-ed for the Washington Post strongly critical of network neutrality, essentially stating that while the Internet is in need of remodeling, congressional action aimed at protecting the best parts of the current Internet could interfere with efforts to build a replacement.
According to a letter to FCC commissioners and key congressional leaders sent by 60 major ISP technology suppliers including IBM, Intel, Qualcomm, and Cisco, Title II regulation of the Internet "means that instead of billions of broadband investment driving other sectors of the economy forward, any reduction in this spending will stifle growth across the entire economy. This is not idle speculation or fear mongering...Title II is going to lead to a slowdown, if not a hold, in broadband build out, because if you don’t know that you can recover on your investment, you won’t make it." According to the Wall Street Journal, in one of Google’s few lobbying sessions with FCC officials, the company urged the agency to craft rules that encourage investment in broadband Internet networks—a position that mirrors the argument made by opponents of strong net neutrality rules, such as AT&T and Comcast. Opponents of net neutrality argue that prioritization of bandwidth is necessary for future innovation on the Internet. Telecommunications providers such as telephone and cable companies, and some technology companies that supply networking gear, argue telecom providers should have the ability to provide preferential treatment in the form of tiered services, for example by giving online companies willing to pay the ability to transfer their data packets faster than other Internet traffic. The added income from such services could be used to pay for the building of increased broadband access to more consumers.
Opponents say that net neutrality would make it more difficult for Internet service providers (ISPs) and other network operators to recoup their investments in broadband networks. John Thorne, senior vice president and deputy general counsel of Verizon, a broadband and telecommunications company, has argued that they will have no incentive to make large investments to develop advanced fibre-optic networks if they are prohibited from charging higher preferred access fees to companies that wish to take advantage of the expanded capabilities of such networks. Thorne and other ISPs have accused Google and Skype of freeloading or free riding for using a network of lines and cables the phone company spent billions of dollars to build. Marc Andreessen states that "a pure net neutrality view is difficult to sustain if you also want to have continued investment in broadband networks. If you’re a large telco right now, you spend on the order of $20 billion a year on capex [capital expenditure]. You need to know how you’re going to get a return on that investment. If you have these pure net neutrality rules where you can never charge a company like Netflix anything, you’re not ever going to get a return on continued network investment — which means you’ll stop investing in the network. And I would not want to be sitting here 10 or 20 years from now with the same broadband speeds we’re getting today."
Proponents of net neutrality regulations say network operators have continued to under-invest in infrastructure. However, according to Copenhagen Economics, U.S. investment in telecom infrastructure is 50 percent higher than in the European Union. As a share of GDP, the United States' broadband investment rate per GDP trails only the UK and South Korea slightly, but exceeds Japan, Canada, Italy, Germany, and France sizably. On broadband speed, Akamai reported that the US trails only South Korea and Japan among its major trading partners, and trails only Japan in the G-7 in both average peak connection speed and percentage of the population connection at 10 Mbit/s or higher, but are substantially ahead of most of its other major trading partners.
The White House reported in June 2013 that U.S. connection speeds are "the fastest compared to other countries with either a similar population or land mass". Akamai's report on "The State of the Internet" in the 2nd quarter of 2014 says "a total of 39 states saw 4K readiness rate more than double over the past year". In other words, as ZDNet reports, those states saw a "major" increase in the availability of the 15Mbit/s speed needed for 4K video. According to the Progressive Policy Institute and ITU data, the United States has the most affordable entry-level prices for fixed broadband in the OECD.
In Indonesia, there is a very high number of Internet connections that are subjected to exclusive deals between the ISP and the building owner, and changing this dynamic could unlock much more consumer choice and higher speeds. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai and Federal Election Commission's Lee Goldman wrote in a Politico piece in February 2015, "Compare Europe, which has long had utility-style regulations, with the United States, which has embraced a light-touch regulatory model. Broadband speeds in the United States, both wired and wireless, are significantly faster than those in Europe. Broadband investment in the United States is several multiples that of Europe. And broadband's reach is much wider in the United States, despite its much lower population density."
A 2010 paper on net neutrality by Nobel Prize economist Gary Becker and his colleagues stated that "there is significant and growing competition among broadband access providers and that few significant competitive problems have been observed to date, suggesting that there is no compelling competitive rationale for such regulation". Becker and fellow economists Dennis Carlton and Hal Sidler found that "Between mid-2002 and mid-2008, the number of high-speed broadband access lines in the United States grew from 16 million to nearly 133 million, and the number of residential broadband lines grew from 14 million to nearly 80 million. Internet traffic roughly tripled between 2007 and 2009. At the same time, prices for broadband Internet access services have fallen sharply." The PPI reports that the profit margins of U.S. broadband providers are generally one-sixth to one-eighth of companies that use broadband (such as Apple or Google), contradicting the idea of monopolistic price-gouging by providers.
When FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler redefined broadband from 4 Mbit/s to 25 Mbit/s (3.125 MB/s) or greater in January 2015, FCC commissioners Ajit Pai and Mike O'Reilly believed the redefinition was to set up the agency's intent to settle the net neutrality fight with new regulations. The commissioners argued that the stricter speed guidelines painted the broadband industry as less competitive, justifying the FCC's moves with Title II net neutrality regulations.
A report by the Progressive Policy Institute in June 2014 argues that nearly every American can choose from at least 5-6 broadband Internet service providers, despite claims that there are only a "small number" of broadband providers. Citing research from the FCC, the Institute wrote that 90 percent of American households have access to at least one wired and one wireless broadband provider at speeds of at least 4 Mbit/s (500 kbyte/s) downstream and 1 Mbit/s (125 kbyte/s) upstream and that nearly 88 percent of Americans can choose from at least two wired providers of broadband disregarding speed (typically choosing between a cable and telco offering). Further, three of the four national wireless companies report that they offer 4G LTE to 250–300 million Americans, with the fourth (T-Mobile) sitting at 209 million and counting. Similarly, the FCC reported in June 2008 that 99.8% of ZIP codes in the United States had two or more providers of high speed Internet lines available, and 94.6% of ZIP codes had four or more providers, as reported by University of Chicago economists Gary Becker, Dennis Carlton, and Hal Sider in a 2010 paper.
FCC commissioner Ajit Pai states that the FCC completely brushes away the concerns of smaller competitors who are going to be subject to various taxes, such as state property taxes and general receipts taxes. As a result, according to Pai, that does nothing to create more competition within the market. According to Pai, the FCC's ruling to impose Title II regulations is opposed by the country's smallest private competitors and many municipal broadband providers. In his dissent, Pai noted that 142 wireless ISPs (WISPs) said that FCC’s new "regulatory intrusion into our businesses ... would likely force us to raise prices, delay deployment expansion, or both". He also noted that 24 of the country's smallest ISPs, each with fewer than 1,000 residential broadband customers, wrote to the FCC stating that Title II "will badly strain our limited resources" because they "have no in-house attorneys and no budget line items for outside counsel". Further, another 43 municipal broadband providers told the FCC that Title II "will trigger consequences beyond the Commission's control and risk serious harm to our ability to fund and deploy broadband without bringing any concrete benefit for consumers or edge providers that the market is not already proving today without the aid of any additional regulation".
According to a Wired magazine article by TechFreedom's Berin Szoka, Matthew Starr, and Jon Henke, local governments and public utilities impose the most significant barriers to entry for more cable broadband competition: "While popular arguments focus on supposed 'monopolists' such as big cable companies, it's government that's really to blame." The authors state that local governments and their public utilities charge ISPs far more than they actually cost and have the final say on whether an ISP can build a network. The public officials determine what requirements an ISP must meet to get approval for access to publicly owned "rights of way" (which lets them place their wires), thus reducing the number of potential competitors who can profitably deploy Internet service—such as AT&T's U-Verse, Google Fiber, and Verizon FiOS. Kickbacks may include municipal requirements for ISPs such as building out service where it is not demanded, donating equipment, and delivering free broadband to government buildings.
Those in favor of forms of non-neutral tiered Internet access argue that the Internet is already not a level playing field, that large companies achieve a performance advantage over smaller competitors by providing more and better-quality servers and buying high-bandwidth services. Should scrapping of net neutrality regulations precipitate a price drop for lower levels of access, or access to only certain protocols, for instance, such would make Internet usage more adaptable to the needs of those individuals and corporations who specifically seek differentiated tiers of service. Network expert Richard Bennett has written, "A richly funded Web site, which delivers data faster than its competitors to the front porches of the Internet service providers, wants it delivered the rest of the way on an equal basis. This system, which Google calls broadband neutrality, actually preserves a more fundamental inequality."
FCC commissioner Ajit Pai, who opposed the 2015 Title II reclassification of ISPs, says that the ruling allows new fees and taxes on broadband by subjecting them to the telephone-style taxes under the Universal Service Fund. Net neutrality proponent Free Press writes, "the average potential increase in taxes and fees per household would be far less" than the estimate given by net neutrality opponents, and that if there were to be additional taxes, the tax figure may be around US$4 billion. Under favorable circumstances, "the increase would be exactly zero". Meanwhile, the Progressive Policy Institute claims that Title II could trigger taxes and fees up to $11 billion a year. Financial website Nerd Wallet did their own assessment and settled on a possible US$6.25 billion tax impact, estimating that the average American household may see their tax bill increase US$67 annually.
FCC spokesperson Kim Hart said that the ruling "does not raise taxes or fees. Period." However, the opposing commissioner, Ajit Pai, claims that "the plan explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband ... These new taxes will mean higher prices for consumers and more hidden fees that they have to pay." Pai explained that, "One avenue for higher bills is the new taxes and fees that will be applied to broadband. Here's the background. If you look at your phone bill, you’ll see a 'Universal Service Fee', or something like it. These fees – what most Americans would call taxes – are paid by Americans on their telephone service. They funnel about $9 billion each year through the FCC. Consumers haven't had to pay these taxes on their broadband bills because broadband has never before been a Title II service. But now it is. And so the Order explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes."
According to PayPal founder and Facebook investor Peter Thiel in 2011, "Net neutrality has not been necessary to date. I don't see any reason why it's suddenly become important, when the Internet has functioned quite well for the past 15 years without it. ... Government attempts to regulate technology have been extraordinarily counterproductive in the past." Max Levchin, the other co-founder of PayPal, echoed similar statements, telling CNBC, "The Internet is not broken, and it got here without government regulation and probably in part because of lack of government regulation." Opponents of new federal net neutrality policies point to the success of the Internet as a sign that new regulations are not necessary. They argue that the freedom which websites, ISPs and consumers have had to settle their own disputes and compete through innovation is the reason why the Internet has been such a rapid success. One of Congress’s most outspoken critics of net neutrality regulations is Senator Ted Cruz from Texas, who points out that "innovation [on the Internet] is happening without having to go to government and say 'Mother, may I?' What happens when the government starts regulating a service as a public utility is it calcifies everything and freezes it in place." In regulating how the Internet is provided, opponents argue that the government will hinder innovation on the web.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who was one of the two commissioners who opposed the net neutrality proposal, criticized the FCC's ruling on Internet neutrality, stating that the perceived threats from ISPs to deceive consumers, degrade content, or disfavor the content that they dislike are non-existent: "The evidence of these continuing threats? There is none; it's all anecdote, hypothesis, and hysteria. A small ISP in North Carolina allegedly blocked VoIP calls a decade ago. Comcast capped BitTorrent traffic to ease upload congestion eight years ago. Apple introduced Facetime over Wi-Fi first, cellular networks later. Examples this picayune and stale aren't enough to tell a coherent story about net neutrality. The bogeyman never had it so easy." FCC Commissioner Mike O'Reilly, the other opposing commissioner, also claims that the ruling is a solution to a hypothetical problem, "Even after enduring three weeks of spin, it is hard for me to believe that the Commission is establishing an entire Title II/net neutrality regime to protect against hypothetical harms. There is not a shred of evidence that any aspect of this structure is necessary. The D.C. Circuit called the prior, scaled-down version a 'prophylactic' approach. I call it guilt by imagination." In a Chicago Tribune article, FCC Commissioner Pai and Joshua Wright of the Federal Trade Commission argue that "the Internet isn't broken, and we don't need the president's plan to 'fix' it. Quite the opposite. The Internet is an unparalleled success story. It is a free, open and thriving platform."
Tim Wu, though a proponent of network neutrality, claims that the current Internet is not neutral as its implementation of best effort generally favors file transfer and other non-time-sensitive traffic over real-time communications. Generally, a network which blocks some nodes or services for the customers of the network would normally be expected to be less useful to the customers than one that did not. Therefore, for a network to remain significantly non-neutral requires either that the customers not be concerned about the particular non-neutralities or the customers not have any meaningful choice of providers, otherwise they would presumably switch to another provider with fewer restrictions.
While the network neutrality debate continues, network providers often enter into peering arrangements among themselves. These agreements often stipulate how certain information flows should be treated. In addition, network providers often implement various policies such as blocking of port 25 to prevent insecure systems from serving as spam relays, or other ports commonly used by decentralized music search applications implementing peer-to-peer networking models. They also present terms of service that often include rules about the use of certain applications as part of their contracts with users. Most consumer Internet providers implement policies like these. The MIT Mantid Port Blocking Measurement Project is a measurement effort to characterize Internet port blocking and potentially discriminatory practices. However, the effect of peering arrangements among network providers are only local to the peers that enter into the arrangements and cannot affect traffic flow outside their scope.
Jon Peha from Carnegie Mellon University believes it is important to create policies that protect users from harmful traffic discrimination, while allowing beneficial discrimination. Peha discusses the technologies that enable traffic discrimination, examples of different types of discrimination, and potential impacts of regulation. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt aligns Google's views on data discrimination with Verizon's: "I want to be clear what we mean by Net neutrality: What we mean is if you have one data type like video, you don't discriminate against one person's video in favor of another. But it's okay to discriminate across different types. So you could prioritize voice over video. And there is general agreement with Verizon and Google on that issue." Echoing similar comments by Schmidt, Google's Chief Internet Evangelist and "father of the Internet", Vint Cerf, says that "it's entirely possible that some applications needs far more latency, like games. Other applications need broadband streaming capability in order to deliver real-time video. Others don't really care as long as they can get the bits there, like e-mail or file transfers and things like that. But it should not be the case that the supplier of the access to the network mediates this on a competitive basis, but you may still have different kinds of service depending on what the requirements are for the different applications."
Internet routers forward packets according to the diverse peering and transport agreements that exist between network operators. Many networks using Internet protocols now employ quality of service (QoS), and Network Service Providers frequently enter into Service Level Agreements with each other embracing some sort of QoS. There is no single, uniform method of interconnecting networks using IP, and not all networks that use IP are part of the Internet. IPTV networks are isolated from the Internet, and are therefore not covered by network neutrality agreements. The IP datagram includes a 3-bit wide Precedence field and a larger DiffServ Code Point (DSCP) that are used to request a level of service, consistent with the notion that protocols in a layered architecture offer services through Service Access Points. This field is sometimes ignored, especially if it requests a level of service outside the originating network's contract with the receiving network. It is commonly used in private networks, especially those including Wi-Fi networks where priority is enforced. While there are several ways of communicating service levels across Internet connections, such as SIP, RSVP, IEEE 802.11e, and MPLS, the most common scheme combines SIP and DSCP. Router manufacturers now sell routers that have logic enabling them to route traffic for various Classes of Service at "wire-speed".
With the emergence of multimedia, VoIP, IPTV, and other applications that benefit from low latency, various attempts to address the inability of some private networks to limit latency have arisen, including the proposition of offering tiered service levels that would shape Internet transmissions at the network layer based on application type. These efforts are ongoing, and are starting to yield results as wholesale Internet transport providers begin to amend service agreements to include service levels.
Advocates of net neutrality have proposed several methods to implement a net neutral Internet that includes a notion of quality-of-service:
Founder of Epic Privacy Browser, Alok Bhardwaj, has argued that net neutrality preservation through legislation is consistent with implementing quality of service protocols. He argues legislation should ban the charging of fees for any quality of service, which would both allow networks to implement quality of service as well as remove any incentive to abuse net neutrality ideas. He argues that since implementing quality of service does not require any additional costs versus a non-QoS network, there is no reason implementing quality of service should entail any additional fees. However, the core network hardware needed (with large number of queues, etc.) and the cost of designing and maintaining a QoS network are both much higher than for a non-QoS network.
Broadband Internet access has most often been sold to users based on Excess Information Rate or maximum available bandwidth. If Internet service providers (ISPs) can provide varying levels of service to websites at various prices, this may be a way to manage the costs of unused capacity by selling surplus bandwidth (or "leverage price discrimination to recoup costs of 'consumer surplus'"). However, purchasers of connectivity on the basis of Committed Information Rate or guaranteed bandwidth capacity must expect the capacity they purchase in order to meet their communications requirements. Various studies have sought to provide network providers the necessary formulas for adequately pricing such a tiered service for their customer base. But while network neutrality is primarily focused on protocol based provisioning, most of the pricing models are based on bandwidth restrictions.
On July 12, 2017, an event called the Day of Action was held to advocate for net neutrality in the United States in response to Ajit Pai's plans to remove government policies that upheld net neutrality. Several websites participated in this event, including ones such as Amazon, Netflix, Google, and several other just as well-known websites. The gathering was called “the largest online protest in history”. Websites chose many different ways to convey their message. The founder of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, published a video defending FCC’s rules. Reddit made a pop-up message that loads slowly to illustrate the effect of removing net neutrality. Other websites also put up some less obvious notifications, such as Amazon, who put up a hard to notice link, or Google, who put up policy blog post as opposed to a more obvious message.
A poll conducted by Mozilla showed strong support for net neutrality across political parties. Out of the approximately 1,000 responses received by the poll, 76% of Americans, 81% of Democrats, and 73% of Republicans, support net neutrality. The poll also showed that many Americans do not think that Trump’s government can be trusted to protect access to the internet. Net neutrality supporters had also made several comments on the FCC website opposing plans to remove net neutrality, especially after a segment by John Oliver regarding this topic was aired on his show Last Week Tonight. However, in response, Ajit Pai selected one particular comment that specifically supported removal of net neutrality policies. At the end of August, the FCC released more than 13,000 pages of net neutrality complaints filed by consumers, yet it was released one day before the deadline for the public to comment on Ajit Pai’s proposal to remove net neutrality. It has been implied that the FCC ignored evidence against their proposal in order to remove the protection laws faster. It has also been noted that nowhere was it mentioned how FCC made any attempt to resolve the complaints made. Regardless, Ajit Pai’s proposal had draws more than 22 million comments, though a large amount were spam. However, there were 1.5 million personalized comments, 98.5% of them protesting Ajit Pai’s plan.
As of January 2018, Fifty senators endorsed a legislative measure to override the Federal Communications Commission's decision to deregulate the broadband industry. The tally leaves supporters just one Republican vote shy of the 51 required to pass a Senate resolution of disapproval, in a legislative gambit aimed at restoring the agency's net neutrality rules.
This idea of net neutrality...[Lawrence Lessig] used to call the principle e2e, for end to end