What is Net Neutrality and Why is it Important?

Net neutrality means everyone gets equal access to online content. Find out why we need net neutrality, who stands to benefit from it, and why its opponents fight against it.
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Net neutrality is a simple concept that guarantees a free and open internet. It prevents ISPs from filtering content and allows equal access to all information. Furthermore, it stops them from pushing corporate giants for a fee and keeping small companies down.

Net neutrality ensures equal treatment for all websites, content, and content producers. Some countries have net neutrality laws, while other nations only adhere to its principles without actively enforcing them. If your country doesn't have net neutrality, we recommend using a good VPN to remain anonymous online and access blocked content.

Keep reading to learn all about net neutrality, its pros and cons, and why we might need it.

In this article
What is net neutrality?
Pros and cons of net neutrality
Why does net neutrality matter?
Net neutrality and speed throttling
What is net neutrality, and why is it important FAQ
Bottom line

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is a concept advocating for equal access to all types of online content. It requires internet providers to allow access to all websites, applications, and content, regardless of their source. Simply put, net neutrality rules prohibit “blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.” For example, ISPs can’t speed up access to Netflix while slowing down Hulu to drive customers toward the former.

That said, net neutrality doesn’t mean everything is freely available online; we still have legal frameworks defining illegal or harmful content. ISPs can still take action against content and sites that break the law in some way (hate speech, copyright infringement, etc.).

In essence, net neutrality protects online entities from unjustified discrimination by ISPs. However, it doesn’t prevent measures to block harmful or illegal content. It does force ISPs to follow a legal due process with oversight, which prevents arbitrary decisions.

Is net neutrality gone?

The application of net neutrality varies by country; each nation has laws regarding the issue. In the United States, the history of net neutrality has been turbulent, to say the least.

In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act extended broadband services to underserved areas. While it also included provisions for net neutrality, this act didn’t establish clear guidelines for their enforcement.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) favored net neutrality during the Bush and Obama administrations. Under Trump, however, the FCC reversed many previous net neutrality regulations. Both states and ISPs have challenged these actions; California even tried to enact its own net neutrality legislation.

So, net neutrality is not gone in the sense that we still have significant advocacy efforts. It remains a topic of debate, with various groups pushing for its reinstatement.

Which countries have net neutrality in 2024?

Several countries have net neutrality laws in effect, while others adhere to its principles without enforcing them. Explore net neutrality application by country in our table below.

Net neutrality status Enforced Not enforced
Countries Brazil, Canada, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, the European Union Argentina, Australia, Chile, China, Indonesia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, United States, Uruguay

Pros and cons of net neutrality

Net neutrality sparks heated debate with plenty of arguments for and against it. Net neutrality advocates point out the following benefits:

  • Preserving free speech: Without net neutrality, broadband providers can simply block websites that clash with their political views or financial interests. The conclusion would be that net neutrality is essential for a free and open internet.
  • Protecting consumers: Net neutrality prevents ISPs from boosting or throttling certain websites. Theoretically, ISPs could charge access to fast lanes, which could also increase the cost for the end consumer.
  • Level playing field: ISPs can give special treatment to corporate giants. This would put small businesses and startups at a severe disadvantage. Paid prioritization would also limit consumers choices. Net neutrality keeps things fair, allowing smaller companies to stay competitive.

Some of the most common arguments against net neutrality include:

  • It’s unnecessary: Opponents argue that the internet was just fine before net neutrality. Furthermore, they claim most internet innovations happened in its absence. Finally, they point out we have very little evidence of ISP wrongdoings.
  • Net neutrality laws are burdensome for ISPs: The government has to monitor the application of net neutrality rules. ISPs would have to submit costly reports twice a year, which would impact the quality of their service. Lastly, the FCC doesn’t have a mandate to force content management and pricing rules on ISPs.
  • No new investments: With net neutrality, consumers pay for the service, not the internet traffic. A streamer who watches 4K videos all day long and a casual internet user would pay the same fee. ISPs could raise the prices, but why would casual users pay for the “heavy spenders?” Since raising prices isn’t viable, ISPs are actually losing money and can’t invest in infrastructure.

Why does net neutrality matter?

Net neutrality has a significant impact on consumers, businesses, and the future of the internet.

  • Impact on consumers: Net neutrality guarantees free and open access to all the data on the Internet without any discrimination or interference from the ISPs. For example, Comcast owns NBC and cannot block competitors like CBS or ABC to enhance their business. Simply put, net neutrality creates a fair and level marketplace.
  • Impact on businesses: Without net neutrality, corporate giants can get special treatment from ISPs. They can create an ecosystem where smaller companies and startups can’t compete. Therefore, net neutrality increases competition, keeps prices in check, and ensures a fair market race.
  • The future of the Internet: With net neutrality, we would eventually get an open internet where everyone can access everything. However, ISPs would have to pay for it, which would lower investments and budgets for innovation.

Net neutrality and speed throttling

Without net neutrality, ISPs can throttle your connection as much as they like. They regularly slow down avid streamers, downloaders, and gamers, who need a lot of bandwidth. Your ISP can monitor your traffic and throttle you when you exceed certain bandwidth limits.

Can VPNs prevent ISP throttling?

Yes, a VPN (virtual private network) can prevent ISP throttling. VPNs can mask your IP address and encrypt your traffic so your ISP won’t see what you’re doing online.

Here are the best VPNs we can recommend:

  • NordVPN is a full package with excellent security and performance. It operates 6,200+ servers and offers specialized servers for torrenting, onion over VPN, and double encryption. If you live in a censorship-heavy country, double encryption (multi-hop) will disguise your VPN traffic and allow you to bypass any firewalls or VPN filters.

    Get NordVPN | Read NordVPN Review
  • Surfshark offers the best value with its unlimited simultaneous connections. It also provides 3,200+ super-fast servers, an excellent security setup, and a double VPN feature.

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  • ExpressVPN is the best option for complete beginners thanks to its minimalistic interface. It operates servers in 105 countries, which guarantees excellent performance. Although it has fewer security features than NordVPN and Surfshark, ExpressVPN uses the same encryption and won’t leak your data.

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What is net neutrality, and why is it important FAQ


What is net neutrality in simple terms?

Net neutrality is an idea developed to prevent internet censorship. Its main goal is to make internet providers distribute all information equally, regardless of the source. This prevents paid prioritization and keeps things fair. For example, ISPs couldn’t take money from Netflix to make Hulu load slower.


What are the benefits of net neutrality?

The main benefit of net neutrality is turning the internet into an open and fair marketplace where everyone can compete under the same terms. It also guarantees free speech and freedom of expression and prevents Internet censorship. Boosting competition also drives prices down for consumers.


What are the disadvantages of net neutrality?

Net neutrality is costly for ISPs, leaving them with less money for innovation and infrastructure. To secure extra funds, they would have to increase their prices. It’s also burdensome since they’d have to submit reports to prove their compliance with net neutrality rules. Net neutrality could also usher in unfair pricing; streaming services use much more bandwidth than other companies, but they would all pay the same price.


What happens if net neutrality is removed?

Without net neutrality, ISPs can play favorites with their customers. They can do this as a paid service or push content that aligns with their political views. They can block, promote, or slow down certain websites or charge additional fees to small companies.

Bottom line

Net neutrality ensures open access to all data on the internet but also levels the playing field for all companies. Under net neutrality, ISPs can't prioritize corporate giants for a fee while slowing down smaller companies that can't afford such a service. In other words, net neutrality affects you as a consumer, as well as companies, websites, and every internet user.

If your country doesn't have net neutrality or you just want an extra layer of security, we recommend using a good VPN. It keeps you anonymous online, protects you from numerous threats, and encrypts your traffic to keep it from prying eyes.

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Author Details
Waverly Colville is a journalist and producer based in Brooklyn with over five years of professional experience in cybersecurity writing. She earned her B.J. in Investigative Journalism and a B.A. in International Peace Studies from the University of Missouri.