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What Lawyers Should Know About Net Neutrality

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on January 26, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It was supposed to be over, the fight for net neutrality. Net neutrality is the idea that web users should have equal access to all internet content, without paid fast lanes for some websites, throttled speeds for others. And that idea triumphed when the Federal Communications Commission declared that the internet could be regulated like a public utility and subsequently issued its controversial Open Internet rules.

But the net neutrality fight is back. On Sunday, President Trump appointed Ajit Pai as chairman of the FCC. Pai, as an FCC commissioner, was a leading opponent of net neutrality and a rollback could be on the horizon. Here's some background, from the FindLaw archives, on why the net neutrality debate matters and what legal professionals need to know about it.

1. New FCC Chair Reignites Net Neutrality Rules

Pai's appointment has put the future of the FCC's Open Internet rules into question. Just last month, Pai reiterated his opposition to treating internet service providers as "common carriers" under the Communications Act -- a designation necessary for their regulation -- and promised to take a "weed whacker" to existing rules.

2. Net Neutrality: FCC Votes to Regulate ISPs as 'Common Carriers'

The FCC's common carrier vote, the one Pai so strongly opposed, came in 2015 and allowed the commission to begin to create rules preventing discrimination in the content ISPs carried. Here's how the vote went down, and why it matters still.

3. Net Neutrality Is Almost Here as New Rules Go Into Effect

The FCC's Open Internet rules kicked in during the summer of 2015, focusing on three anti-neutrality practices: blocking, throttling, and prioritization. Here's what those rules mean for internet service providers, internet users, and internet litigators.

4. Internet Slowdown Day Is Sept. 10. Here's Why It Matters.

Net neutrality might not have become a household word, albeit a nerdy one, without Internet Slowdown Day and related events. This anti-holiday was part of a "Battle for the Net," a fight over the internet's future, and one of the first time tech interests really started flexing their political muscles.

5. ALEC Goes After Municipal Broadband Advocates

Net neutrality isn't the only fight to keep the internet open. There's a side battle raging over municipal broadband -- that is, lightning-fast internet that is actually a local utility. And that battle generated some significant legal fights, including this dustup over legislation written by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

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