October 23, 2006
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality ensures that you, not a corporate monopoly, choose how you access and use the Internet. It protects your ability to access and send any lawful information on the Internet. It prevents Internet Service Providers, such as cable and telephone companies, from preferring certain content, applications, or services over others. Net Neutrality means individual freedom, not corporate control, on the Internet.
Life Without Net Neutrality
It would be hard to imagine life without the Internet. It has become part of our daily lives, where we can gather news, meet people, exchange ideas, and register for classes. Here are just a few examples of what the Internet will be like if Congress fails to restore strong Net Neutrality protections:
- Censored Speech and Content. Without Net Neutrality, network providers can block or slow down access to sites they don’t like. Earlier this year, AOL blocked all emails that mentioned www.dearaol.com, an advocacy group that was challenging AOL’s pay-to-send e-mail scheme.
- No User Choice. Without Net Neutrality, network providers – not you – will determine what services and equipment you can use on the Internet. For example, Cingular Wireless, run by AT&T, bars access to PayPal because it has struck a deal with another online payment service, which pays Cingular for that privileged status.
- Banned Chat Rooms. Without Net Neutrality, network owners can dictate whether you are allowed to visit popular chat rooms or if you will have to pay a cover charge to enter them. Think it can’t happen? Think again. Just this summer, BellSouth blocked its customers’ access to Myspace.com in Tennessee and Florida.
- Online Gamer Restrictions. Without Net Neutrality, fan sites, mod communities (individuals playing against each other), and MMORPGs (Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) might find their online gaming shut off. Network providers will be able to charge gamers tolls to access their favorite games, in addition to the broadband connection fee that most users already pay. Network providers would also be able to restrict gaming access to their own online gaming companies, shutting off any competitors.
- Expensive Downloads and Pod-casting. Without Net Neutrality, network providers could charge you more to download your favorite videos or music, or to use services such as Rhapsody, YouTube, Napster, and iTunes. Network providers can also tell you which download service you have to use, charging you a toll if you decide to use one of their competitors.
How Can I Take Action?