What’s the Deal with Net Neutrality?

The controversial topic of net neutrality has been debated by many people, whether it be politicians, scholars, bloggers or famous icons. But what is net neutrality? Why is it important? In a general sense, net neutrality aims to address concerns raised by some specific behavior of the broadband service providers such as: (1) blocking of some content providers; (2) preferential treatment of one content provider over another; and (3) transparency failures, whereby a broadband provider fails to notify its customers and content providers what service they offer in terms of estimated bandwidth, latency, etc” [1]. Net neutrality is important because “net neutrality levels the playing field so that anyone with any idea or story, regardless of how much money they have, will be able to share it, just by having access to the internet”. Depending on how the Internet continues to expand, phone companies could sell access to different parts of the Web at different prices, slowing down or speeding up access to certain content [3]. Therefore, the possibility of online platforms being charged more for content delivery through “fast lanes” or “prioritization” undermines the idea of a level playing field [4].

As said earlier, without net neutrality, those ISPs (Internet Service Provider) would have the power to block their consumers from visiting those petitions or slow the delivery of the websites, which make a significant impact on accessing educational content, fundraisers, petitions, etc [4]. Everybody should have access to the Internet, because while it is regulated appropriately, the Web drives economic progress and knowledge. It is where new businesses thrive and where government transparency and efficiency. It is also the most important venue for global culture and information, where histories are found alongside people’s personal narratives, and where education is accessible to anyone. The Internet is empowering to everyone where individuals can seek advice from peers and prosper in all trades [3]. According to, “The Debate on Net Neutrality: A Policy Perspective”, supporters of the concept of maintaining net neutrality explain that online startups would not be able to pay the proposed fees when their revenue streams are almost nonexistent, because they have to give away most of their content to build a loyal customer base. Other venture capitalists also argue that putting an end to net neutrality would result in potential entrepreneurs becoming more hesitant to start a business which could hurt the competitiveness of American online firms in the long run [1]. Tim Berners-Lee, known as the founder of the World Wide Web, favors net neutrality, because “the Internet is the basis of a fair and competitive market economy” [1]. If Internet Service Providers offered services to their consumers at rates that undercut competing rivals, they would also struggle to remain competitive if they were required to pay these fees [1]. Therefore, if consumers were to have a prioritized access over others and ISPs gave out rates that would sabotage other companies, it would become an extremely unfair market economy. Nobody wants to charged more money, and nobody wants slow Internet access.


On the contrary, ISPs argued that they have given their resources to maintain and upgrade physical infrastructure to provide the services to consumers, while the popular websites have thus far gotten a “free ride” on their resources and that the ISPs should be allowed to strike deals to give certain websites or services priority in reaching computer users” [1]. In some instances, ISPs take on the idea that the new payment mechanisms might prelude the beginning of new business models that demand priority access/treatment and that the “vertical integration of new features and services by broadband network operators is an essential part of the innovation strategy companies need to use to compete and offer customers the services they demand” [1]. Basically, the ISPs argue that Internet users have had privileged or “free” access to the Internet and that these fees will incite new competition to give consumers what they demand and they deserve. ISPs such as Verizon, Comcast and AT&T oppose network neutrality regulations because they claim that these regulations would discourage investment in broadband networks [2]. The logic behind this claim is that those companies would have no incentive to invest in network capacity unless content providers supporting bandwidth-intensive multimedia applications pay a premium for heavy Internet traffic [2]. In other words, they face an evident “free-rider” problem, unless content providers who support bandwidth-intensive Internet traffic pay a premium. However, net neutrality regulations could actually boost the incentive for ISP capacity expansion because it relieves the need to obtain the priority right and unfavorably affects the ability to acquire fees from content providers. Therefore, as content providers’ margins increase and Internet Service Providers’ bargaining power becomes stronger, it becomes more likely that the ISP will have more incentives to invest in neutral network [2].

[1] Cheng, Hsing Kenneth, Subhajyoti Bandyopadhyay, and Hong Guo. “The Debate on Net Neutrality: A Policy Perspective.” Information Systems Research 22, no. 1 (2011): 60-82. http://www.jstor.org.unh-proxy01.newhaven.edu:2048/stable/23015624.

[2] Choi, Jay Pil, and Byung-Cheol Kim. “Net Neutrality and Investment Incentives.” The RAND Journal of Economics 41, no. 3 (2010): 446-71. http://www.jstor.org.unh-proxy01.newhaven.edu:2048/stable/25746037.

[3] Larsen, Solana. “Who Saved The Web?”. Last modified August, 4 2016. Center for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona. https://webwewant.org/news/who-saved-the-web/

[4] Perri, Jonathan. “Why we need net neutrality in order to change the world”. Last modified December 7, 2017. https://mashable.com/2017/12/07/net-neutrality-digital-activism-free-speech/?europe=true#FuP5DXayHiqA