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Net neutrality (also network neutrality, Internet neutrality, or net equality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. 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.
An example of a violation of net neutrality principles was the Internet service provider Comcast intentionally slowing uploads from peer-to-peer file sharing applications. And 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. 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.
- 1 Definition and related principles
- 2 By issue
- 3 Legal aspects
- 4 By country
- 5 Arguments for net neutrality
- 6 Arguments against net neutrality
- 6.1 Reduction in innovation and investments
- 6.2 Counterweight to server-side non-neutrality
- 6.3 Broadband infrastructure
- 6.4 Significant and growing competition
- 6.5 Broadband choice
- 6.6 Deterring competition
- 6.7 Potentially increased taxes
- 6.8 Prevent overuse of bandwidth
- 6.9 High costs to entry for cable broadband
- 6.10 Unnecessary regulations
- 7 Related issues
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Network neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. According to Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu, the best way to explain network neutrality is as when designing a network: that a public information network will end up being most useful if all content, sites, and platforms are treated equally. A more detailed proposed definition of technical and service network neutrality suggests that service network neutrality is the adherence 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.
The idea of an open Internet is the idea that the full resources of the Internet and means to operate on it are easily accessible to all individuals and companies. This often includes ideas such as 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 as closely related to open-source software.
Proponents often see net neutrality as an important component of an open Internet, where policies such as equal treatment of data and open web standards allow those on the Internet to easily communicate and conduct business without interference from a third party. A closed Internet refers to the opposite situation, in which established persons, corporations or governments favor certain uses. A closed Internet may have restricted access to necessary web standards, artificially degrade some services, or explicitly filter out content.
The concept of a dumb network made up of dumb pipes has been around since at least the early 1990s. The idea of a dumb network is that the endpoints of a network are generally where the intelligence lies, and that the network itself generally leaves the management and operation of communication to the end users. In 2013 the software company MetroTech Net, Inc. (MTN) coined the term Dumb Wave which is the modern application of the Dumb Pipe concept to the ubiquitous wireless network. If wireless carriers do not provide unique and value-added services, they will be relegated to the dumb pipe category where they can't charge a premium or retain customers.
The end-to-end principle is a principle of network design, first laid out explicitly in the 1981 conference 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 resource 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 in order to optimize or guarantee performance, improve latency, and/or increase usable bandwidth by delaying packets that meet certain criteria. 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 QoS can be obtained without policing. For example the telephone network employs admission control to limit user demand on the network core by refusing to create a circuit for the requested connection. 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.
Discrimination by protocol
Discrimination by protocol is the favoring or blocking information based on aspects of the communications protocol that the computers are using to communicate. 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." In spite of the ruling in favor of Comcast, a study by Measurement Lab in October 2011 verified that Comcast had virtually stopped its BitTorrent throttling practices.
Discrimination by IP address
During the early decades of the Internet, creating a non-neutral Internet was technically infeasible. Originally developed to filter malware, the Internet security company NetScreen Technologies released network firewalls in 2003 with so called deep packet inspection. 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, and are especially common in the developing world.
Sometimes ISPs will charge some companies, but not others, for the traffic they cause on the ISP's network. French telecoms operator Orange, complaining that traffic from YouTube and other Google sites consists of roughly 50% of total traffic on the Orange network, reached 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.
Favoring private networks
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 obtaining a cease and desist order on 5 June 2014 that forced Netflix to stop displaying this message.
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 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.
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 its 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.
As of 2015[update], India had no laws governing net neutrality and there have been violations of net neutrality principles by some service providers. While the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) guidelines for the Unified Access Service license promote net neutrality, they are not enforced. The Information Technology Act, 2000 does not prohibit companies from throttling their service in accordance with their business interests.
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.
Recently, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved "net neutrality" rules that prevent Internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon from slowing or blocking Web traffic or from creating Internet fast lanes that content providers such as Netflix could pay to use. However, the FCC is facing several lawsuits that challenge its open Internet order. TRAI believes that this is due to the lack of specific "law governing rules". To ensure that India doesn’t face such issues in the future, TRAI and the government are looking to clearly define the do's and don’ts.
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".
There has been extensive debate about whether net neutrality should be required by law in the United States. Advocates of net neutrality have raised concerns about the ability of broadband providers to use their last mile infrastructure to block Internet applications and content (e.g. websites, services, and protocols), and even to block out competitors. Opponents claim net neutrality regulations would deter investment into improving broadband infrastructure and try to fix something that isn't broken.
On 26 February 2015, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled in favor of net neutrality by reclassifying broadband access as a telecommunications service and thus applying Title II (common carrier) of the Communications Act of 1934 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.
Arguments for net neutrality
Proponents of net neutrality 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, 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 Tim Berners-Lee, Vinton Cerf, Lawrence Lessig, Robert W. McChesney, Steve Wozniak, Susan P. Crawford, Marvin Ammori, Ben Scott, David Reed, and U.S. President Barack Obama. On 10 November 2014, U.S. President Barack 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 to the Internet in a vote expected on 26 February 2015.
Control of data
Supporters of net neutrality want to designate cable companies as common carriers, which would require them to allow Internet service providers (ISPs) free access to cable lines, the model used for dial-up Internet. They want to ensure that cable companies cannot screen, interrupt or filter Internet content without 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 don't 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.
Digital rights and freedoms
Proponents of net neutrality argue that a neutral net will foster free speech and lead to further democratic participation on the internet. 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.
User intolerance for slow-loading sites
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.
Competition and innovation
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 companies. 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 health care, 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.
Preserving Internet standards
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.
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 doesn't 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.
Pro net neutrality film
Killswitch, a 2014 film featuring Lawrence Lessig, Tim Wu, Peter Ludlow, Aaron Swartz, and Edward Snowden, argues that the Internet belongs to the people, not to an alliance of big government and big business interests; when net neutrality is threatened, it represents a threat to our Republic.
Arguments against net neutrality
Opponents of net neutrality regulations include AT&T, Verizon, IBM, Intel, Cisco, Nokia, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Juniper, dLink, Wintel, Alcatel-Lucent, Corning, Panasonic, Ericsson, and others. Notable technologists who oppose net neutrality include Marc Andreessen, Scott McNealy, Peter Thiel, David Farber, Nicholas Negroponte, Rajeev Suri, Jeff Pulver, John Perry Barlow, and Bob Kahn.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker's paper titled, "Net Neutrality and Consumer Welfare", published by the Journal of Competition Law & Economics, alleges 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.
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 is the 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.
Reduction in innovation and investments
According to a letter to key Congressional and FCC 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 revenue 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. 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."
Counterweight to server-side non-neutrality
Those in favor of forms of non-neutral tiered Internet access argue that the Internet is already not a level playing field: large companies achieve a performance advantage over smaller competitors by replicating servers and buying high-bandwidth services. Should prices drop for lower levels of access, or access to only certain protocols, for instance, a change of this type would make Internet usage more neutral, with respect to the needs of those individuals and corporations specifically seeking 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."
Proponents of net neutrality regulations say network operators have continued to under-invest in infrastructure. However, according to Copenhagen Economics, US investment in telecom infrastructure is 50 percent higher that of the European Union. As a share of GDP, The US's 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.
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." 
Significant and growing competition
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.
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 between 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 percent of zip codes in the United States had two or more providers of high speed Internet lines available, and 94.6 percent 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.
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.
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."
Potentially increased taxes
FCC commissioner Ajit Pai, who opposed the net neutrality ruling, claims that the ruling issued by the FCC to impose Title II regulations explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new fees and taxes on broadband by subjecting them to the telephone-style taxes under the Universal Service Fund.
Net neutrality proponent Free Press argues that, "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 $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 $6.25 billion tax impact, estimating that the average American household may see their tax bill increase $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."
Prevent overuse of bandwidth
Since the early 1990s, Internet traffic has increased steadily. The arrival of picture-rich websites and MP3s led to a sharp increase in the mid-1990s followed by a subsequent sharp increase since 2003 as video streaming and Peer-to-peer file sharing became more common. In reaction to companies including YouTube, as well as smaller companies starting to offer free video content, using substantial amounts of bandwidth, at least one Internet service provider (ISP), SBC Communications (now AT&T Inc.), has suggested that it should have the right to charge these companies for making their content available over the provider's network.
Bret Swanson of the Wall Street Journal wrote in 2007 that the popular websites of that time, including YouTube, MySpace, and blogs, were put at risk by net neutrality. He noted that, at the time, YouTube streamed as much data in three months as the world's radio, cable and broadcast television channels did in one year, 75 petabytes. He argued that networks were not remotely prepared to handle the amount of data required to run these sites. He also argued that net neutrality would prevent broadband networks from being built, which would limit available bandwidth and thus endanger innovation.
High costs to entry for cable broadband
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 hoops an ISP must jump through 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 isn’t demanded, donating equipment, and delivering free broadband to government buildings.
According to PayPal founder and Facebook investor Peter Thiel, "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 don’t like 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."
Quality of service
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:
- An approach offered by Tim Berners-Lee allows discrimination between different tiers, while enforcing strict neutrality of data sent at each tier: "If I pay to connect to the Net with a given quality of service, and you pay to connect to the net with the same or higher quality of service, then you and I can communicate across the net, with that quality and quantity of service". "[We] each pay to connect to the Net, but no one can pay for exclusive access to me."
- United States lawmakers have introduced bills that would now allow quality of service discrimination for certain services as long as no special fee is charged for higher-quality 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 doesn't require any additional costs versus a non-QoS network, there's 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.
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- "Measuring the Information Society", International Telecommunications Union (ITU), 2013, ISBN 978-92-61-14401-2.
- Ajit Pai and Lee Goodman. "Internet Freedom Works". POLITICO Magazine.
- "Sorry, your broadband Internet technically isn't broadband anymore". CNET. CBS Interactive.
- "Why FCC ruling will hurt US consumers: FCC commish", Fred Imbert, CNBC, 27 February 2015.
- "Summary of Commissioner Pai's Oral Dissent on Internet Regulation". fcc.gov.
- Wood, Matt (2 December 2014). "Claims That Real Net Neutrality Would Result in New Internet Tax Skew the Math and Confuse the Law". Free Press. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
- "Effect of net neutrality rules on taxes is uncertain". @politifact.
- "Republican FCC Commissioner Slams 'Obama’s 332-Page Plan To Regulate The Internet'", Giuseppe Macri, The Daily Caller, 6 February 2015.
- "Google and cable firms warn of risks from Web TV". USA Today. 2 July 2007. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
- Kelly, Spencer (15 June 2007). "Warning of 'Internet overload'". BBC Click.
- Banks, Theodore L. (24 May 2002). Corporate Legal Compliance Handbook. Aspen Publishers Online. p. 70. ISBN 9780735533424.
- Swanson, Bret (20 January 2007). "The Coming Exaflood". The Wall Street Journal.
- "Don't Blame Big Cable. It's Local Governments That Choke Broadband Competition - WIRED". WIRED.
- "Father of net neutrality: Rules won't kill spending", Tom DiChristopher, CNBC, 26 February 2015.
- , Street, Jon, It Only Takes Two Minutes for Ted Cruz to Explain Why He’s Against Net Neutrality, The Blaze, Nov ‘14
- "FCC adopts net neutrality rules endorsed by open internet advocates". rt.com.
- Wu, Tim (2003). "Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination". Journal of Telecommunications and High Technology Law 2: 141. doi:10.2139/ssrn.388863. SSRN 388863.
- Jon Peha. "The Benefits and Risks of Mandating Network Neutrality, and the Quest for a Balanced Policy". Retrieved 1 January 2007.
- Goldman, David (5 August 2010). "Why Google and Verizon's Net neutrality deal affects you". CNNMoney (CNN). Retrieved 6 August 2010.
- "5 insights from Vint Cerf on bitcoin, net neutrality and more". Washington Post.
- Sullivan, Mark (14 August 2006). "Carriers Seek IP QOS Peers". Light Reading. Retrieved 26 December 2008.
- Berners-Lee, Tim (2 May 2006). "Neutrality of the Net". timbl's blog. Retrieved 26 December 2008.
- A bill to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to ensure net neutrality, S. 215
- "NCSU.edu" (PDF). Retrieved 23 June 2011.
- Technological Neutrality and Conceptual Singularity
- Why Consumers Should Be Worried About Net Neutrality
- The FCC on Net Neutrality: Be Careful What You Wish For
- Internet Policy: Who's Pulling the Strings
- Financial backers of pro neutrality groups
-  - Film advocating in favor of Net Neutrality
- Battle for the Net - Website advocating net neutrality by Fight for the Future
- Don't Break The Net - Website advocating against net neutrality by TechFreedom with monetary support from telcos.
- La Quadrature du Net – Complex dossier and links about net neutrality
- See answer to corresponding question on website's "About TechFreedom" section.