The phrase 'net neutrality' has exploded in usage in recent years with fierce arguments for and against the principle making headlines.

The term - coined by Columbia University professor Tim Wu in 2003 - refers to the concept that internet service providers (ISP) should treat all data on the internet the same. ISPs should not dictate prices by content, website, user and platform, block certain content or slow down certain services.

net neutrality mindscanner

Without net neutrality, internet services would be very different. For example, services like video, gaming and social media could be sold as individual internet services, say $9.99 a month for social media access plus $5 a month for video content, rather than just paying your ISP a set amount for internet services as a whole.

It would essentially take on a similar model to Sky and its 'bundles'.

Right now, this matter is an issue for the US only, although concerns are starting to grow in the UK, with some wondering if we'll try to adopt a similar standing on the issue.

For net neutrality

Organisations and individuals in favour of net neutrality argue that without net neutrality ISPs could abuse their market power.

Supporters of net neutrality argue that ISPs could slow down the speed of the internet, creating a 'fast lane' service which costs more, and a 'slow lane' one which limits the overall speed. For them, this seems unfair as it means those unable to afford faster internet will be punished with slow services.

Without net neutrality, ISPs could interrupt and filter content delivered to a user and be able to pick and choose which websites run and at what speeds. This highlights a concern for net neutrality supporters that online freedoms will be affected.

For example, without net neutrality and with ISP having controls over what people can view on the internet, it in some way limits what people's rights and their ability to practice free speech.

Anti-competition issues are important for supporters of net neutrality as they add another issue for competing internet providers. 

For example, if an internet provider is able to control the information and internet content, it could also promote its own content above its competitors. For example, its own video content or block its competitors entirely. 

Those in favour of net neutrality hold that it is unfair to charge people for individual internet services which are controlled by the ISP. Does this mean that those who can't afford the 'fast lane' service and all the best content are left at a massive disadvantage? For supporters, the answer is simply, yes. 

Against net neutrality

Opponents argue that by creating 'fast lanes', ISPs can prioritise certain technologies such as connections between life saving devices, or other essential connections. This would mean slowing down non-essential services, for the good of others, they argue.

Others believe that net neutrality regulations will encourage ISPs to invest more in new services and improving current ones. This is because net neutrality has not incentivised them to provider quicker and more reliable services.

Another argument against net neutrality and for regulation is that with more competition to provide the fastest service and the best content tiers, prices will fall and quality will rise.

However, an argument against this point is that this could, in fact, block any new businesses from entering the market and create an impenetrable market for only major suppliers. 

Net neutrality: What's next? 

The US Senate has just voted to block the repeal of net neutrality, with a ratio of 52 to 47. 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - who are behind the push for net neutrality regulations - had said that net neutrality rules will finally come to an end on 11 June, after a vote last year ruled that net neutrality would be abolished. Although this came under heavy opposition from the Democratic party. 

So while the vote to keep net neutrality is a definite win for those in favour, it is just the beginning. The Congressional Review Act - the rule that allows Congress to reverse decisions - needs to be approved by the House of Representatives and President Donald Trump.