Common Questions

Is net neutrality the first step on the road to Internet regulation and taxation?

The principle of net neutrality is about keeping the hands of several powerful network operators – AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast – off the Internet, preventing them from taking steps to change the basic open nature of the Net that has led to its success. Net neutrality keeps the Internet as a free and open marketplace, so that a small number of telephone and cable monopolies can’t choke off competition and innovation.

Net neutrality was a founding principle of the Internet, and was the law of the land until 2005. The courts and the regulators changed the rules in 2005 when they eliminated the nondiscrimination requirements that had applied for decades to phone service and, up to that point, to most residential Internet access. Implementing net neutrality is a return to the basic principles that make the Internet work for consumers and innovators.

Would net neutrality prevent providers from engaging in network management techniques to reduce congestion, relieve capacity constraints, and enable new services?

Net neutrality would only limit telcos and cable companies from imposing limits on usage based on the type or content of Internet traffic. Network operators have other tools available to protect the network that do not discriminate against certain types of content.

Would net neutrality force consumers to pay more for internet service than they would otherwise pay?

Implementation of net neutrality doesn’t cost Internet providers anything. The telcos and cable companies use the threat of price increases only to create fear about net neutrality, because they know there is considerable customer dissatisfaction about the high fees they already charge for residential broadband. The premium plan for Verizon FiOS fiber optic internet service is currently $179.95. Large internet providers have continued to raise prices in the absence of net neutrality, and certainly will do the same in the presence of net neutrality.

Would net neutrality slow investment in broadband networks?

Verizon had already begun rolling out its FiOS fiber optic Internet service in 2004, while net neutrality was in place. They plan to spend $23 billion to extend this network to 18 million homes across the country by 2010. Clearly, the issue of investment is dictated by customers and revenues, not net neutrality.

There is no problem right now, so why do we need to implement net neutrality now?

There is a clear and present danger facing the open Internet from a handful of powerful cable and telephone companies.

Today, and for the foreseeable future, cable and telephone companies are the dominant providers of Internet access services, serving over 98% of all consumer broadband connections. Some cable and telephone companies have blocked certain Internet traffic or given preference to their own Internet services. Some equipment manufacturers have begun marketing equipment that allows network operators to identify and screen traffic. And many telephone and cable executives have publicly stated their desire to leverage their own networks to favor their own or affiliated content, and to create “tiers” of service that allow some content to receive enhanced treatment or “quality of service.”

The time to act is now, before the Internet is irreparably harmed and consumers and innovators bear the brunt of this damage.

Isn't the marketplace able to deal with this issue without government regulation?

Ideally, a competitive market would be able to deal with this problem. Unfortunately, the cable and telco companies have monopoly or duopoly positions in most markets across the country in high-speed internet service. In the absence of strong competition between network providers, the market alone is unable to prevent AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast from degrading the Internet and discriminating against content providers.

Hasn't the Internet been successful because of a “hands off” approach from the government?

The government has had a close relationship to the Internet from its inception. Decades of government funded work led to the public Internet, including important work through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that led to packet switching over dial-up telephone lines.

For over a century, limited government regulation has played an important oversight role to ensure that the nation’s telephone networks, which are run by private companies, work for all Americans. The concept of net neutrality is similar – it would give regulators a limited role to protect the openness of a national network that has become vital to education, entertainment, commerce, and communication.

Would net neutrality discourage the deployment of new networks, freezing in place the status quo cable and telephone company duopoly or monopoly?

Investment in national broadband networks is briskly moving forward. Sprint Nextel recently announced the nationwide rollout of a consumer WiMAX (4G) mobile wireless network with DSL-like speeds of 2-4 mbps which will be available in 100 markets by 2008. Clearwire, a new company founded by cellular phone pioneer Craig McCaw, is building a similar network to Sprint Nextel’s. And Broadband over Power Line (BPL) technology allows consumers to receive 1 mbps service through electrical outlets.

The cable and telcos will continue to use any argument to create doubts about net neutrality, but they don’t hold water in the face of reality.

If we implement net neutrality, would the US fall further behind other countries in terms of broadband reliability and availability?

The US ranks 15th in the world in broadband penetration rates, behind strongly regulated countries in the European Union. We also trail South Korea, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Japan.

It’s ironic that the same companies that have put the US behind the rest of the world would raise concern about us falling further behind. Falling behind in the world has nothing to do with net neutrality, and everything to do with large telecom and cable companies trying to maximize profit by failing to provide universal service to all Americans.

The US needs a national broadband policy that would increase the build-out of high speed networks to underserved rural and urban residents and raise broadband coverage to a level that will provide economic opportunity for everyone in the US, not just those fortunate to live where the phone and cable companies decide to build their networks.

The Open Internet Coalition stands for:

An Open Internet
Access to broadband networks should be open to all producers and consumers of Internet content on fair and equal terms.

Universal Affordable Access
Broadband Internet access should be universally available and affordable. 

Quality through Competition
A competitive marketplace creates jobs, helps the American consumer, fosters innovation, and drives economic growth.