Net Neutrality Has Finally Been Restored. But What Is it, Exactly?

After a seven-year hiatus, net neutrality is back — but what does this mean for the average internet user?

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to restore net neutrality and roll out tougher broadband regulations to ensure internet speeds and access are democratized for all users across the US.

The bill will see the broadband internet treated like other essential services such as phones and water, and represent a major win for the Democratic party, who have been fighting for an open internet since the regulations were rescinded under former President Donald Trump in 2017.

The debate around the open internet has been inciting tension between big corporations and US policymakers for decades. But if you’re curious about how net neutrality could impact you, we explain what the concept means in simple terms, and what the bill could mean for the average US citizen.

The FCC Has Decided to Restore Net Neutrality, After a Seven Year Hiatus

The FCC has voted 3-2 on party lines to reinstate net neutrality – a landmark protection that was first rolled out by former President Obama in 2015. The bill, which received overwhelming support from the Democratic party, will finalize a proposal first advanced in October and will result in the FCC exerting more regulatory control over US-based internet broadband providers like Verizon and Xfinity.

Despite major pushback from broadband companies and lobbying groups, the FCC’s fact sheet cited several reasons why it was essential to reinstate net neutrality laws.

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Principally, the commission believes restoring open internet will help prevent broadband providers from creating “Internet fast lanes” that would charge services like Amazon or Netflix for faster access – an argument that Netflix has been supporting for years.

The FCC also believes these rules are critical in preventing providers from censoring content and cracking down on free speech, increasing the security of all broadband networks, and giving small and medium-sized companies a more level playing field on the market.

“Every consumer deserves internet access that is fast, open and fair. This is common sense.” – FCC Chairwomen, Jessica Rosenworcel

Chairwoman of the FCC Jessica Rosenworcel said the rules reflected the importance of high-speed internet as the main mode of communication for many Americans, and compared the internet to other essential services that we “count on in every aspect of modern life”, like water and phone lines.

With debates around net neutrality often being overshadowed by wider conversations about politics and capitalism, its impact on the average netizen often gets lost in the mix. So, what could reinstating the open internet actually mean for you?

What Is Neutrality, and How Does It Affect Me?

In simple terms, net neutrality is the concept that internet service providers (ISP) should treat all data on the internet equally. The set of regulations aims to make the internet an open playing field for all users, by prohibiting any ISPs from blocking, slowing down, or speeding up the delivery of online content at their discretion.

Proponents of the movement believe that open internet results in a fairer deal for everyone, by preventing online experiences from being controlled by those with bigger wallets. For the average user and site owner, this can mean the following:

  • Greater accessibility – Net neutrality ensures that everything on the internet is available to everyone, democratizing access across demographics.
  • Lower costs – By preventing ISPs from charging companies for better access, services won’t need to lump the financial burden onto regular internet users with paywalls and paid subscriptions.
  • Better user experience – The regulations ban internet providers from slowing down internet providers for certain sites, resulting in a better, and faster browsing experience for most Americans.
  • Greater freedom of expression – Net neutrality prohibits ISPs from blocking specific content they don’t agree with, ensuring that the internet is free from censorship, and encouraging freedom of speech online.
  • Better opportunities for small businesses – Smaller enterprises with smaller budgets will benefit from the open internet, as they can enjoy the same site speeds as larger corporations.

Why Is The Debate Around Net Neutrality So Heated?

The FCC’s restoration of net neutrality didn’t come without its fair share of pushback. Opponents of net neutrality argue that the bill could result in more unnecessary government oversight of broadband providers, and that could stifle innovation and competition in the industry.

FCC Commissioner and Republican Brendan Carr has been a vocal opponent of the bill. He described the new regulations as an “unlawful power grab” and previously criticized Biden’s equity plan for being ‘sweeping, unprecedented, and unlawful’.

Unsurprisingly, ISPs aren’t happy about the bill, either. Jonathan Splatler, the president of the broadband lobbying group believes net neutrality is a “nonissue for broadband consumers, who have enjoyed an open internet for decades,” and has stated that the organization will “pursue all available options, including in the courts.”

However, despite the topic stoking divisions on Capitol Hill, net neutrality is supported by a bipartisan majority of Americans, with recent polling showing that the concept is supported by 73% of US citizens, including 82% of Democrats, 65% of Republicans, and 68% of Independents. So, unless you’re a broadband conglomerate with vested interests in web privitization, its unlikely you’re going to be negatively impacted by the FCC’s recent bill.

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Written by:
Isobel O'Sullivan (BSc) is a senior writer at with over four years of experience covering business and technology news. Since studying Digital Anthropology at University College London (UCL), she’s been a regular contributor to Market Finance’s blog and has also worked as a freelance tech researcher. Isobel’s always up to date with the topics in employment and data security and has a specialist focus on POS and VoIP systems.
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