What Does Net Neutrality Mean?

Coby McKinley Profile image

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Updated January 5, 2023

Understanding consumer privacy and what net neutrality means is essential to your internet experience and consumer privacy. The controversy surrounding net neutrality protections and internet service providers (ISPs) can seem confusing to average internet users. Network Neutrality rules aim to treat the internet as a utility and prevent discriminatory practices by broadband providers and cable companies. So, keep scrolling if you’re curious about net neutrality’s meaning and how it affects your internet connection.


  • Net neutrality is the concept that internet service providers (ISPs) should provide access to content and activities, regardless of the source.
  • Network neutrality guidelines dictate that an ISP cannot provide preferential treatment or withhold service from competing services.
  • There have been no net neutrality regulations in the United States since the 2017 FCC repeal.

For more information, read up on the pros of net neutrality, what its repeal means for you, and the principles of the Data Protection Act.

Insider Tip

Use an internet speed test to ensure your broadband internet access meets the advertised speeds.

How Net Neutrality Laws Work

Net neutrality laws ensure that consumers have equitable access to internet content and platforms. Internet service providers must treat all data equally under net neutrality regulations, meaning they cannot throttle or give priority treatment to some online content. Net neutrality laws aim to level the playing field so that small businesses receive the same internet service as large companies like Verizon Wireless or Netflix. There are two sides to the net neutrality regulatory debate, and they mostly divide over economic grounds.

What Net Neutrality Supporters Say

Supporters of net neutrality regulations claim that equal service for all consumers supports intellectual freedom and expression. Additionally, consumer rights advocates claim that neutrality laws prevent abusive practices that discriminate against marginalized groups. Lastly, cable companies can give faster delivery to their own or partner sites while throttling the speeds of competing content services.


Without net neutrality regulations, broadband companies can provide preferential treatment to themselves while limiting the online services of competing content providers.

What Net Neutrality Opponents Say

Opponents of net neutrality view it as a misguided action that stifles competition in the market. ISPs claim that net neutrality laws stop them from optimizing their networks through selective throttling and network prioritization. The lack of innovation leads to worse outcomes and higher costs for consumers. ISPs should be able to charge large companies for their increased bandwidth requirements.

STAT: A Pew Research Center survey showed that American internet usage grew by 38% between 2001 and 2021. (source)

Net Neutrality Meaning FAQs

Does the United States have net neutrality?

The United States federal government does not currently enforce or have Net Neutrality rules for internet providers or telecom companies. The Obama administration took regulatory action against internet providers in 2015, but the Trump-era FCC net neutrality repeal undid those rulings. While the net neutrality repeal faced multiple federal appeals and public pushback, there is no neutrality oversight of broadband service.

What can broadband companies do without net neutrality laws?

Without net neutrality regulations, broadband providers can give special treatment or withhold service as they see fit. For example, Comcast could boost internet speeds to their online content while throttling a user’s connection to a competing streaming service. Additionally, they can block access to any information or websites they see fit, even lawful content.

Does net neutrality limit market competition?

Net neutrality advocates argue that effective broadband policies enhance freedom of expression and market competition. Under a neutral internet, large companies cannot pay for preferential internet speeds over the less financially powerful competition. Additionally, net neutrality prevents anti-competitive and anti-consumer practices like price gouging or limiting legal content.
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