The concept of Net Neutrality is pretty democratic in nature – everyone’s data flows at the same rate, and said data (content and communications of different sorts) is freely transmitted without discrimination or interference by ISPs(Internet Service Providers). Congress ensured, in the 1996 Telecommunications Act, that ISPs like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, for example, were prevented from creating essentially an information Autobahn and an information cobblestone path, which would have benefited big business and thrown the rest of us onto the path of much resistance and very very slow communications. Countless small businesses have reached their intended audience without fear of undue filtering, fees or interference as a result.
It has been said that companies like Google and Facebook would never have realized the enormous success they have enjoyed if the Internet had been structured favoring big money. If they had been forced to stay on the low, slow, pay-to-play path from their inception, they’d never have become the household names and key players in modern search, content, and social media that they’ve become.
The Internet is currently considered an information highway, and, as such, has remained outside of normal telecommunication fee structures and rules. This designation was intentional, and when Congress enacted the rules they understood how critical the ISPs’ roles were as gatekeepers, and preventing undue blocking or filtering was the primary goal – keeping things fair and truly ‘open’ from a data transmission standpoint was the driving ideal.
All was well in the land, and then things started to get complicated as they tend to do when big information and big money factor in.