Frequently Asked Questions

What is this about?

When we log on to the Internet via our computer or smartphone, we take a lot for granted. We assume we'll be able to access any website or use any application we want, whenever we want, at the fastest speed, whether it's a corporate site or a friend’s blog. We assume we can use any service we like — watch online videos, update our Facebook status, read the news — any time we choose, on any device we choose. What makes all these assumptions possible is a principle called Net Neutrality.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality is the Internet’s guiding principle: It preserves our right to communicate freely online. This is the definition of an open Internet.

Net Neutrality means that Internet service providers may not discriminate between different kinds of online content and apps. It guarantees a level playing field for all websites and Internet technologies.

Net Neutrality is the reason the Internet has driven online economic innovation, democratic participation and free speech. It protects our right to use any equipment, content, application or service 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 and which to demote to a slower lane.

Who wants to get rid of Net Neutrality?

The nation's largest phone and cable companies — including AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon — want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which websites and apps go fast, which go slow … and which won't load at all.

They want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. And they want to discriminate in favor of their own apps, services and content — while slowing down or blocking competitors’ services.

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 Vint 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 1920s.

After a court challenged the FCC’s authority to protect the open Internet, the agency passed weak Open Internet rules that offered some Net Neutrality protections for wired Internet users — but almost no protections for wireless users. Yet even these watered-down rules are being challenged by Verizon and a smaller carrier in court. If they win, Internet users will be at the mercy of big corporations.

Do the FCC’s Open Internet rules apply to cellphone providers like AT&T and Verizon?

The FCC's rules only barely apply to mobile broadband. They need to be strengthened.

Here's why: By 2015, more people will access the Internet via mobile devices than via laptop or desktop computers. But the Internet on your phone or tablet is virtually unprotected under the FCC's new rules. Providers like AT&T and Verizon can block almost any mobile use at will.

Isn't the threat to Net Neutrality just hypothetical?

No. Carriers have actually come out and stated their intention to discriminate online. These carriers want to build a tiered Internet with faster service for the select few companies and content providers willing or able to pay exorbitant tolls. And they want to discriminate against competing content, services and apps on their networks. Without stronger Net Neutrality rules, this type of censorship will become the norm.

Some companies have already violated Net Neutrality on their wired networks. Comcast, for example, blocked millions of users trying to access file-sharing services. In the absence of user protections on wireless networks, carriers have begun to encroach on our ability to choose where we go, what we do and who we connect with when we go online via mobile phones and tablets.

The phone and cable companies already dominate the broadband marketplace. Without stronger Net Neutrality rules, people will have nowhere to turn when network owners start abusing their control of the pipes.

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 lack of strong Net Neutrality rules harms millions of people who use the Internet every day.

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 … without having to face insurmountable hurdles along the way. Without Net Neutrality, corporations willing to engage in the carriers’ payola scheme will muscle startups and entrepreneurs out of the marketplace .

If we allow telecom corporations to take control of the Internet, everyone who goes online will be affected. Connecting to your office could take much longer if you don't purchase your carrier's preferred apps. The same goes for sending family photos and videos. Apps you use for online banking, health-care information, vacation planning or communicating with friends and family could fall victim to pay-for-play schemes — or could be blocked outright.

On smartphones, carriers are already blocking apps at will and introducing pricing schemes that charge users more for access to competing video services and apps.

Independent voices and political groups are especially vulnerable. The cost of sharing video and images could skyrocket, silencing independent media and amplifying the voices of big media companies. Political organizers could be hampered by carriers that block certain apps on our phones to restrict our access to bandwidth.

How does Net Neutrality affect investment?

Studies show that Net Neutrality has significant economic benefits — and investment would suffer without it. According to a study from the Institute for Policy Integrity, “Internet infrastructure and content work together to generate huge economic benefits for consumers — possibly as much as $5,686 per user, per year."

And another study shows that the open Internet provides massive economic benefits to the tune of more than $215 billion.

What else are the phone and cable companies lying about?

AT&T and other telecoms have funded a misinformation campaign with the participation of industry-funded Astroturf groups like Hands Off the Internet and

Learn how to separate myth from reality in our report Network Neutrality: Fact vs. Fiction.

What’s happening in Washington?

In November 2011, the Senate voted against a “resolution of disapproval” that would have stripped the FCC of its authority to enforce its Open Internet rules.

Those rules survived this assault and went into effect later that month, but they are now being challenged in the courts.

Who else supports Net Neutrality?

Supporters of Net Neutrality include leading tech companies such as Amazon, eBay, Intel, Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo. Prominent national figures such as Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig and former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps have called for stronger Net Neutrality protections.

Organizations as diverse as the Christian Coalition for America,, the ACLU and the American Library Association have joined in support of Net Neutrality. And President Barack Obama pledged to “take a back seat to no one” in his commitment to Net Neutrality.

Editorial boards at the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the Seattle Times, the St. Petersburg Times and the Christian Science Monitor have all have urged Congress and the FCC to protect Net Neutrality.

What can I do to help?


People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good