- Act Now
- Open Internet
- Promoting Creativity
- Open & Accessible Technology
“Net Neutrality” is the shorthand term for the principle that companies that operate a telecommunications network, like the telephone, cable, and Internet companies, shouldn't be able to play favorites with the content that goes over the network.
For example, one movie company shouldn't be able to cut a deal with Verizon to have its movies download faster than another company’s movies. If that happens, then Verizon (or AT&T or Comcast, etc.) is influencing users’ decisions by allowing one service to operate better than a similar service in which the carrier does not have a financial interest.
Public Knowledge’s Position
Public Knowledge supports enforceable Net Neutrality regulation and a neutral Internet:
- Where paid prioritization (in which companies pay Internet access providers for their content to reach consumers faster than their competitors’) is presumptively unreasonable—both on wireless and wireline connections.
- Where network operators must offer a minimum level of broadband service to all broadband consumers; we do not support the creation of a "private Internet" granting exclusive access to the higher bandwidth levels to certain providers selected by the network operator.
- That does not require detailed rules forcing network operators to obtain government pre-approval to manage their networks.
- That can be enforced through a simple complaint process managed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), where the network operator must bear the burden of demonstrating that any interference with traffic is necessary to support a lawful goal.
The notion that a deep-pocketed company, through paid prioritization, could pay to have its service moved ahead in the queue or transmitted faster than another is deeply troubling—especially in a medium founded on the idea that everyone has a chance to reach someone else without interference from the carrier in the middle.
Here’s a closer look at the timeline and debate around Net Neutrality:
Comcast v FCC
In 2007, Comcast was discovered to be blocking or throttling some types of Internet traffic. Along with Free Press, Public Knowledge requested that the FCC declare such blocking to be a violation of the AT&T/BellSouth network neutrality principles and the FCC agreed.
In April 2010, a Court found in favor of Comcast and overturned the FCC's ruling against them. The Court found that the FCC did not have the authority that it claimed to be using to regulate ISPs. This decision has had ramifications beyond the Comcast case because it called into question the FCC's ability to regulate any ISP or do anything to protect consumers on the Internet (transparency, privacy, emergency services, etc).
The FCC’s Open Internet Rules
On December 21, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in favor of an order that establishes rules of the road to preserve the open Internet. The rules, however, are full of loopholes and shortcomings, such as vague definitions and the exclusion of protections on wireless.
These rules do not provide much certainty, but instead provide a path for further litigation on the issue of Net Neutrality. Public Knowledge will continue to advocate for enforceable rules of the road to prevent Internet access providers from picking winners and losers online before consumers can do so themselves.
Congressional Review Act
In February 2011, opponents to an open Internet started the process known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which is an expedited tool rarely used by Congress to repeal rules issued by federal agencies.
Public Knowledge is strongly opposed to the CRA. If enacted into law, the CRA would permanently prohibit the FCC from creating rules to protect consumers online and prevent Internet access providers from picking winners and losers on the Internet.
Implications for Online Video
There are many situations in which Internet access providers have the ability and incentive to block legal online video. Network Neutrality does not come to bear on all of these, but is certainly relevant in most.
Public Knowledge is against anticompetitive blocking of online video, especially when the Internet access provider is also a video content distributor. This would prove detrimental to consumers, who would face fewer options for accessing video, as well as to content creators, who would face fewer options for accessing audiences.
What you can do to help