What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all websites, apps, and other online services equally.  

Specifically, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules state that ISPs:

The rules also enable the FCC to determine on a case-by-case basis whether an ISP has unreasonably interfered with consumer access to online content or a company’s ability to create and deliver such content.

Why is Net Neutrality important now?

Without net neutrality rules, ISPs could charge a toll to any websites they choose—limiting consumer choices, harming competition, and hitting consumers squarely in the wallet.

In fact, some ISPs are known to have done the very things prohibited by the FCC’s net neutrality rules. And lawyers for the industry have acknowledged that, without the current rules, ISPs would explore the idea of charging websites fees for preferential treatment.

In short, we at Consumer Reports believe that strong net neutrality rules are vital to consumers’ everyday lives and essential to preserving the internet as we know it today—an open marketplace where websites large and small compete on equal terms and where information and ideas move freely.

Unfortunately, many ISPs are actively lobbying lawmakers and regulators to chip away at net neutrality rules. And the new chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has proposed a plan that would effectively eliminate them. Net neutrality is under imminent threat.

What you can do to maintain net neutrality

Individual consumers can make a difference. First, know that net neutrality and the rules that support it are overwhelmingly supported by consumers. (A recent Consumer Reports survey found that more than two-thirds of Americans believe an internet provider should not be able to block or slow a competitor’s streaming service.) And know that it was a wave of popular support that convinced the FCC to issue net neutrality rules in 2015. So start by submitting your comments at https://consumersunion.org/netneutrality/.  

In addition, we urge you to speak directly to your elected officials. Remember, they work for you, and your personal experiences and concerns should be important to them. Town hall events are set up specifically for this kind of communication. But if you can’t find a town hall near you, you can always drop by lawmakers’ offices near your home to share your thoughts in person. No appointment is necessary!

How to influence lawmakers and their staff

Here are some general tips for influencing your member of Congress:

Questions for lawmakers and their staff

Here are a few pointed questions about net neutrality that you can ask at town hall meetings with elected officials.

For a pdf of this document, click here.