Net Neutrality

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DEFINITION of 'Net Neutrality'

The idea that all data on the internet should be treated equally by corporations, such as internet service providers, and governments, regardless of content, user, platform, application or device. Net neutrality advocates see it as a cornerstone of open internet, and propose that it be mandated by law in the U.S. to prevent broadband providers from practicing data discrimination as a competitive tactic.

INVESTOPEDIA EXPLAINS 'Net Neutrality'

Proponents of net neutrality include human rights organizations, consumer rights advocates and software companies, who believe that open internet is critical for the democratic exchange of ideas and free speech, fair business competition and technological innovation. They argue that cable companies should be classified as "common carriers," like public utility companies or public transportation providers, who are forbidden by law from discriminating among their users. They advocate the principle of a "dumb pipe," maintaining that intelligence should be located only the ends of a network, and the network ("pipe") itself should remain neutral ("dumb"). Advocates of net neutrality see municipal broadband as a possible solution.

Opponents of open internet include conservative think-tanks, hardware companies and major telecommunication providers. The providers argue that they must be allowed to charge tiered prices for access in order to remain competitive and generate funds needed for further innovation and expansion of broadband networks, as well as to recoup the costs already invested in broadband.

As of May 2014, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission decided it would consider: 1. permitting slow and fast broadband lanes, which would defy the notion of net neutrality; 2. reclassifying broadband as a telecom service, which would maintain net neutrality.

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