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What Is Net Neutrality?

Will new federal rules make the Internet better?

By
Adam Freedman

Today’s topic: Net neutrality 

And now, your daily dose of legalese:  This article does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader.  In other words, although I am a lawyer, I’m not your lawyer.  In fact, we barely know each other. If you need personalized legal advice, contact an attorney in your community.

Can Internet Service Providers Discriminate?

I recently got an email from R. Adams--I don’t know whether that’s Mr. or Ms. Adams--asking the following question, “How can it be legal that certain Internet providers [can] ‘throttle’ or slow down your Internet if you are a heavy user to save bandwidth for other customers?  This singles out individuals for poor performance for a service they pay for.”

The quick answer is that your contract for Internet service probably allows the provider to do just that. But the larger question--whether such practices should be outlawed--is part of the current legal debate over the so-called net neutrality rules..

What is Net Neutrality?

“Net neutrality” is a term used to summarize certain principles of Internet governance.  The basic idea is that the Internet should treat all forms of content equally, rather than, say, blocking or “throttling” certain types of content.  As a legal matter, it comes down to whether Internet service providers should be subject to regulations designed to promote net neutrality; for example, rules that prohibit providers from requiring payment from websites that want faster access times.

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