Net Neutrality: Background and Issues


This research note provides a definition, background information and discusses the key issues of net neutrality.

As congressional policymakers continue to debate telecommunications reform, a major point of contention is the question of whether action is needed to ensure unfettered access to the Internet. 

The move to place restrictions on the owners of the networks that compose and provide access to the Internet, to ensure equal access and non-discriminatory treatment, is referred to as “net neutrality.” There is no single accepted definition of “net neutrality.” However, most agree that any such definition should include the general principles that owners of the networks that compose and provide access to the Internet should not control how consumers lawfully use that network; and should not be able to discriminate against content provider access to that network. 

Concern over whether it is necessary to take steps to ensure access to the Internet for content, services, and applications providers, as well as consumers, and if so, what these should be, is a major focus in the debate over telecommunications reform. 

Some policymakers contend that more specific regulatory guidelines may be necessary to protect the marketplace from potential abuses which could threaten the net neutrality concept. Others contend that existing laws and FCC policies are sufficient to deal with potential anti-competitive behavior and that such regulations would have negative effects on the expansion and future development of the Internet. While a consensus on this issue has not yet formed, the 110th Congress continues to address the debate over net neutrality largely within the broader issue of telecommunications reform.

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Posted on 12/14/2010 by


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