Net Neutrality (also called “Internet neutrality” or “network neutrality”) refers to the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet as equal. This means they shouldn’t discriminate or change differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment or mode of communication.
The term was coined in 2003 by Tim Wu, a Columbia University media law professor. Supporters of net neutrality see it as an important component of an open Internet that goes hand-in-hand with policies like equal treatment of data and open web standards. The converse, a “closed Internet,” would allow established corporations or governments to favor certain uses of the Internet, restrict access to necessary web standards, artificially degrade some services, and explicitly censor content.
In the U.S., there has been extensive debate about whether net neutrality should be required by law. In April 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed new rules that would allow broadband Internet service providers (like Comcast and Verizon) the “right to build special lanes” with faster connection speeds for companies willing to pay a higher price (like Netflix, Google or Disney).
In May, the FCC launched a public comment period to garner responses for how FCC rule-making could best protect and promote an open Internet.