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Definition: Net Neutrality from Dictionary of Information Science and Technology

the stance taken by many in the technology field that pricing of broadband service should be free of use restrictions and that content and content providers should not be regulated (Barthold & McNutt, 2010)

Summary Article: NET NEUTRALITY
from Internet and the Law: Technology, Society, and Compromises

According to proponents of net neutrality (also known as network or Internet neutrality), the Internet functions best (and most fairly) if Internet service providers (ISPs) do not discriminate among users or data, but instead treat all equally. Differential pricing for different users or types of data violates net neutrality, as does giving higher priority to certain users or types of data. In particular, any attempt by ISPs to create tiered pricing or service, especially to discriminate against subscribers of their competitors, violates net neutrality.

Because the marketplace provides more incentives for ISPs to discriminate against their competitors and in favor of their own content and subscribers than it does to provide neutral access, proponents of net neutrality have attempted to convince the U.S. Congress to enact legislation requiring it. These attempts have been unsuccessful; however, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has, for the most part, acted as a guardian of net neutrality. Its authority is limited, however. In 2008, the FCC ruled against Comcast, an ISP, in a complaint brought by Comcast subscribers over Comcast's interference with their use of BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer networking application. Comcast then petitioned for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which held that the FCC had lacked authority to rule against Comcast, because “the Commission has failed to tie its assertion of ancillary authority over Comcast's Internet service to any ‘statutorily mandated responsibility’” (Comcast Corp., 600 F. 3d at 661).

  • Comcast Corp. v. FCC, 600 F.3d 642 (D.C. Cir. 2010)

See also: Activism and Advocacy Groups; Broadband; Cable; Federal Communications Commission; Internet

Sources and Further Reading
  • Internet Governance: System Error,” The Economist, December 1, 2012, at 67.
  • Copyright 2014 by Aaron Schwabach

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