Network neutrality (equivalently net neutrality, Internet neutrality) is a principle proposed for residential broadband networks and potentially for all networks.
A neutral broadband network is one that is free of restrictions on content, sites, or platforms, on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and on the modes of communication allowed, as well as one where communication is not unreasonably degraded by other communication streams.
Though the term did not enter popular use until several years later, since the early 2000s advocates of net neutrality and associated rules have raised concerns about the ability of broadband providers to use their last mile infrastructure to block Internet applications and content (e.g. websites, services, protocols); particularly those of competitors.
In the US particularly, but elsewhere as well, the possibility of regulations designed to mandate the neutrality of the Internet has been subject to fierce debate.
Neutrality proponents claim that telecom companies seek to impose a tiered service model more for the purpose of profiting from their control of the pipeline rather than for any demand for their content or services. Others have stated that they believe net neutrality to be primarily important as a preservation of current freedoms.
Vinton Cerf, co-inventor of the Internet Protocol, Tim Berners Lee, father of the web, and many others have spoken out strongly in favour of network neutrality.
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