Net Neutrality Supports a Free and Open Internet
On September 27, we blogged about Verizon’s attempt to discriminate based on content when it announced that it would block the text messages of NARAL. After a firestorm of bad press, Verizon quickly retreated and said that it had all been a misreading of their policy. But, whether or not companies will be able to function as a bottleneck on protected speech is at the heart of the debate over net neutrality.
Net neutrality is “the concept that the Internet should remain free and open” with all websites being treated as equals. In a neutral Internet, service providers operate along common carrier rules and cannot give content priority to certain customers, even if those customers are willing to pay more for enhanced service. However, this is precisely what telecoms have been pushing for—a multi-tiered Internet where the quality of service depends on your content and the price you pay.
Net neutrality has long been viewed as something that is inherent in the Internet’s design, fueling democracy and the economy. Without net neutrality, telcoms could discriminate amongst websites based on how much we pay and also what we say online. An unneutral net could have devastating effects for free speech and commerce. Small businesses, schools, libraries, non-profits, and bloggers could all face slow connections, and even outright blocking.
The ACLU has firmly advocated for net neutrality.
Last year, the ACLU campaigned for the Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act, which would have made it a violation of the Clayton Antitrust Act to discriminate web traffic based on the prices customers pay. Though it passed in the House, the bill was subject to a filibuster in the Senate.
Since then, all of the Democratic presidential candidates have endorsed net neutrality and it promises to be a key issue in the coming election.
Along with the ACLU, a variety of businesses and organizations support net neutrality, including Amazon.com, Free Press, Google, American Library Association, Microsoft, Common Cause, Consumers Union and MoveOn.org.
For more on the ACLU's position on net neutrality, visit our website.