Net neutrality is the idea that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat all content and users on the internet equally and fairly. It is to avoid discrimination against certain types of content and keep the internet “open” by preventing ISPs from imposing certain restrictions on usage.
In other words, net neutrality encourages all types of legal internet traffic – data exchanged and transferred over the internet, including messages, files, and content – to be treated equally by ISPs. It is the principle that ISPs should provide access to all sites without preferential treatment and under the same conditions.
The term “net neutrality” was coined in 2003 by Tim Wu, a law professor at the University of Columbia, whose paper aimed to address the concern over ISPs discriminating online and restricting innovation in the long term.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed laws that supported open internet in 2010. The federal initiatives were challenged and overturned by Verizon after a legal case in 2014, after which another set of laws was introduced in 2015 to combat the issue.
However, after the change in political administration, the FCC rules from 2015 were replaced with new regulations relaxing the restrictions on ISPs, while enforcing transparency of their practices, as of 2017.