Net Neutrality Definition2

The who, what, where, when and why of Net Neutrality and what it means for nonprofits.

What are we talking about?
 Network neutrality, commonly known as “net neutrality,” according to ACLU, is “applying well-established “common carrier” rules to the Internet in order to preserve its freedom and openness. Common carriage prohibits the owner of a network, that holds itself out to all-comers,” such as AT&T, Time Warner, Comcast, etc., “from discriminating against information by halting, slowing, or otherwise tampering with the transfer of any data (except for legitimate network management purposes such as easing congestion or blocking spam).”
We are living in the incredible Digital Revolution. With the creation of the internet we are able to connect with others faster and more efficiently, which has proven to be a powerful tool in various ways. Like all instruments of power, there are people fighting for control of the internet. Activists for network neutrality are trying to halt this monopoly and manipulation of control.

Who does this affect?
Net Neutrality affects all users of the internet. It keeps information from being manipulated, censored, deleted or otherwise tampered with, unless there is a legitimate reason, like mentioned above. Net Neutrality affects nonprofits and for-profits alike.

When did network neutrality begin?
The term network neutrality was coined by Columbia University professor Tim Wu in 2003 as an extension of the concept of a “common carrier.” Common carrier rules protect resources central to public life; this includes telecommunications, public highways and more. By implementing common carrier laws onto networks, it will ensure that all internet traffic is treated equally. Net neutrality has been quickly gaining attention as people continue to fight for internet freedom.

Where does all of this take place?
Net neutrality is completely involved with happenings on the internet. There is an immense amount of information and data stored in the cyber space of the World Wide Web. This proliferation of data is extremely valuable and necessary to protect the privacy of users all around the world. When Google was first created they even had the motto “Don’t Be Evil” in relation to data collection and information privacy.

Why does this matter to nonprofits?
Nonprofits use their websites and social media accounts to connect with current and potential supporters for fundraising and promotion of their cause. The lack of network neutrality would impact the access, timeliness and connections that nonprofits have to supporters. As of now, nonprofits can tell their stories without interruption, without the barrier of a third party publication and without being hushed. Right now the internet is the cheapest form of marketing any company could hope for (besides word of mouth of course). This fits well into the budgets of nonprofits and allows them to be present in the minds of their supporters far more often than before the advent of the internet.

How to learn more:
Want to learn more about net neutrality? Read Net Neutrality Prevails in Historic FCC Vote by Huffington Post. For more on net neutrality’s impact on nonprofits, take a look at these articles by NTEN, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and Third Sector New England. To get involved in protecting net neutrality check out Save the Internet