We’re reflecting on everything from LAN parties to geopolitical squabbles for the 50th anniversary of ethernet: a technology that has enabled the whole world to become connected in ways that once only lived in the realm of fantasy. But perhaps the fundamental story of the internet — the one that ties all of these things together as much as the cables that bind us — is a collection of principles now known as net neutrality. Net neutrality is possibly the policy story we’ve covered the most over the lifetime of The Verge, and that story may never end as long as humans are connected. Just like the roads that have linked people for thousands of years, the cables that now span the planet are a central part of human politics.
What we now think of as “the internet” is as endlessly diverse as the people who use it. For a lot of people around the world, the internet is just the Facebook app on their phone. For others, it’s TikTok and Fortnite. And for some, it’s memories of posting in Delphi forums and IRC chatrooms. But no matter what the internet is to each of us, it’s all been made possible by a sprawling system of global infrastructure that — for much of internet history — has operated under the egalitarian idea that all traffic should be treated equally. Which is to say: your ISP shouldn’t care whether the data that you’re requesting is for a YouTube video or a New York Times article. That’s the essence of net neutrality: the idea that those who provide access to the internet shouldn’t discriminate between the requests of users or the people and companies that create websites or services.
But as the internet transitioned from a quirky anecdote on ’90s morning television to a driving economic force, and as internet service providers consolidated into juggernauts, a familiar cycle repeated itself: the owners of essential infrastructure got greedy. And as watchdogs saw a looming crisis, the fight for net neutrality began. On the side of net neutrality was a coalition of people and organizations who believed that the internet’s historical openness should be codified by law; on the other side were powerful interests that saw profit in gatekeeping. And then there are some who just got caught in the crossfire.
Even though progress can feel inevitable, the best laws and regulations are never really permanent; they require maintenance from every generation. And as we have seen broadly in recent years, our institutions require collective faith to thrive. That includes the internet, which is much more than just a series of tubes. Despite all of its pitfalls, the internet represents a fundamentally hopeful belief that we can all seek each other out and find knowledge, enrichment, and connection. That’s what The Verge is all about. And it’s still worth fighting for.
This stream contains our most vital net neutrality coverage since our founding in 2011. From victories to setbacks, it offers a full picture of the struggle to preserve one of our most vital inventions and to expand its access equally to everyone around the world.
Jul 28, 2022
Democrats are recharging the fight for net neutrality by introducing a new bill on Thursday that would codify the deeply divisive open internet rules.Read Article >
Led by Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Net Neutrality and Broadband Justice Act would reclassify broadband internet service as an essential service, authorizing the Federal Communications Commission to enforce rules banning discriminatory practices like blocking and throttling certain lanes of internet traffic.
Oct 4, 2019
It’s been a hard week for net neutrality supporters, as the Trump Federal Communication Commission’s decision to strip neutrality rules from the internet was upheld by the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.Read Article >
It was a fairly narrow win for the FCC, as the court said it was required to defer to the agency’s judgment, and bound by the precedent set in a controversial 2005 case called NCTA v. Brand X (or just Brand X for short). And the court said the FCC cannot block states like California from writing their own net neutrality laws, so that’s where the fight moves next.
Sep 1, 2018
Last year’s FCC decision to repeal net neutrality was arguably the most unpopular tech policy decision in the history of the modern internet. The repeal not only resulted in an unprecedented public backlash, but prompted numerous states to immediately begin exploring new state-level alternatives in the wake of the FCC’s retreat. Now, instead of one fight on the federal level, telecom giants like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast face countless state-level efforts to keep their monopoly power in check.Read Article >
On the federal level, the FCC’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” order not only obliterated popular net neutrality rules, but crippled the agency’s ability to protect consumers from a seemingly endless parade of bad ISP behavior, from historically terrible customer service and obnoxious fees to skyrocketing broadband prices. For most Americans the message was crystal clear: the financial interests of AT&T, Verizon and Comcast supercede that of the American consumer and the health of the internet.
Jun 11, 2018
Today, the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order takes effect, effectively repealing net neutrality protections in the US. The effects probably won’t be sudden; we’ve explained what might happen without the rules and what’s already happened since the vote last year. But no matter what happens this week, repeal opens the door to some real abuses of internet service providers’ power — not hypothetical scenarios, but real predatory practices we’ve already seen in the past.Read Article >
These incidents show how complicated the issue of net neutrality is: all of these transgressions happened after the 2005 Internet Policy Statement, which laid out four “open internet” principles that would guide the agency’s decisions. Some happened during periods where firm rules were standing, others during periods when they’d been struck down. Companies reconsidered their choices because of public outcry, official investigations, and practical changes in technology. So while today is a disappointing day for net neutrality, keeping internet companies in check isn’t just about having the right rules in place. It’s about having regulators and an American public that will make trouble for anybody breaking them.
Jun 11, 2018
As of June 11th, the legal protections against content discrimination on the internet are gone. As far as the FCC is concerned, net neutrality is dead.Read Article >
The policy’s fate was sealed back in December 2017, when FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order was approved in a 3-2 vote along party lines. Pai’s order, which goes into effect today, rolls back the net neutrality protections that were put in place by former chairman Tom Wheeler. They promise — in name, at least — unrestricted access to online content minus the burden of regulation. But in fact, the new ruling clears the way for massive internet service providers to do practically whatever they like — including paid prioritization, throttling, and otherwise messing with traffic as it moves across the internet. It will take a long time to see the practical effects of the new rules, but make no mistake: this is a big deal, and it’s the first step in a long, slow process that will reshape the internet in very ugly ways.
Yesterday, FCC chairman Ajit Pai successfully led a vote to repeal the Open Internet Order, effectively killing net neutrality rules. The full order hasn’t been released, but advocacy groups are already preparing for the fight to defend a neutral internet once Title II is repealed. Passing net neutrality protections in 2015 was relatively straightforward, but getting those protections back requires going through every potential legal avenue. Meanwhile, ISPs will be testing their ability to control internet traffic — possibly in very blatant ways.Read Article >
Lawsuits are coming
Dec 15, 2017
Now that the new Star Wars is upon us — which, as we all know, is the real Reason for the Season — it’s time for what is now my yearly overthinking of the entire franchise. Last year, I came to the realization that if the galaxy had adequate women’s health care, Anakin would have never turned to the dark side. This year, I want to point out that Rogue One, a tremendously underrated installment of the series, is really about internet freedom.Read Article >
Dec 14, 2017
The FCC will vote on a measure today that would repeal net neutrality and pave the way for the end of the free, open internet as we’ve always known it. Librarians aren't happy about it.Read Article >
Yesterday, The Verge published an op-ed written by the heads of the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Library, and the Queens Library systems, which called the measure “appalling,” and argued that the end of an open internet would contribute to inequality of education and opportunity, widening “the already yawning digital divide.” Later, in a phone call, the New York Public Library’s CEO and president Anthony Marx and associate director of information policy Greg Cram broke the issue down further, explaining exactly which library resources an open internet protects, who would be hurt the most by net neutrality’s rollback, and why handing the internet to ISPs could threaten the basic foundation of American democracy.
The FCC is about to give massive internet service providers the power to divide the internet. It is at risk of becoming unrecognizable. A vital global utility that has been a boon to creative and economic freedom for people around the world may be turned into a twisted land of tolls and corporate control.Read Article >
The stakes are high. The internet now touches every town, every city, and every single one of us — whether we use it or not. Those who control the network control the future.
Yesterday, one week out from an FCC vote that will almost certainly decimate the open internet protections put in place during the Obama administration, thousands took to the streets. The protests were organized by Fight for the Future, a 10-person nonprofit dedicated to preserving the doctrine known as Net Neutrality, as well as Demand Progress, and Free Press Acton Fund. Protests were located in front of Verizon stores across the country. Verizon is one of a handful of large ISPs that is set to profit from the commission chairman Ajit Pai’s expected rollback.Read Article >
Protests took place as far afield as Tampa, Florida, to Harrison, Arkansas, to Seattle, Washington. The Verge sent staff photographer Amelia Krales to document the protest in New York City’s Bryant Park.
Aug 9, 2017
Imagine if you took every single gripe you've had with Verizon over the past five years — the time it blocked Nexus 7 tablets for five months; the time it forced you to pay $20 per month for tethering; the time it tried to make you use a mobile wallet app called "ISIS" — and finally put your foot down. For a year, you spend free moments holed up in library stacks, speaking with experts, and researching and writing a sprawling legal complaint about the company's many, many misdeeds. And then you file it all with the FCC, hoping to get some payback.Read Article >
That's exactly what Alex Nguyen did. And one day very soon, Verizon may have to answer for it.
Jul 12, 2017
FCC chairman Ajit Pai is fond of saying that “the internet was not broken in 2015” when he argues for repeal of our nation’s net neutrality rules. This is particularly funny to me, because in 2014 I literally wrote an article called “The internet is fucked.”Read Article >
Why was it fucked? Because the free and open internet was in danger of becoming tightly controlled by giant telecom corporations that were already doing things like blocking apps and services from phones and excusing their own services from data caps. Because the lack of competition in the internet access market let these companies act like predatory monopolies. And because our government lacked the will or clarity to just say what everyone already knows: internet access is a utility.
Apr 26, 2017
The Federal Communications Commission is cracking open the net neutrality debate again with a proposal to undo the 2015 rules that implemented net neutrality with Title II classification.Read Article >
FCC chairman Ajit Pai called the rules “heavy handed” and said their implementation was “all about politics.” He argued that they hurt investment and said that small internet providers don’t have “the means or the margins” to withstand the regulatory onslaught.
Mar 9, 2016
Two years ago, John Oliver called Tom Wheeler a dingo.Read Article >
The host of Last Week Tonight had set his sights on the then-raging net neutrality debate, acerbically calling out broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon for their throttling antics and intense Congressional lobbying. Midway through the segment, Oliver dryly pointed to President Obama’s appointment of former cable and wireless lobbyist Wheeler as the new head of the Federal Communications Commission — "the equivalent of needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo."
Feb 11, 2015
The FCC has a problem. It wants to keep the internet equal and open — as it largely has been — but doing that requires making rules. And every time the FCC makes rules, it pisses someone off: Comcast, Verizon, the entire cable industry. Throw their names in a hat, pick one out, and you've got a party that's ready for court. That's how the commission's last set of net neutrality rules were killed, and that's what it has to look forward to dealing with again in the very near future.Read Article >
That's because the FCC is back with a whole new set of rules. Rules that the general public loves but that the cable and wireless industries absolutely hate: it wants to reclassify internet service as a Title II "telecommunications service" — rather than a Title I "information service," as the internet was declared back in 2002 — and thus make it subject to very strong regulations that can protect net neutrality.
Sep 12, 2014
It’s Wednesday afternoon on Tumblr, and the internet is in a perpetual loading state. Starting early in the morning, users have been greeted with a cluster of spinning wheels in place of the normal dashboard. “Make it stop,” says a button at the top. Click it, and Mark Ruffalo will explain to you in a video why the FCC (represented whimsically by stock footage of Santa Claus) needs to stop cable companies (a man in a sweater and hard hat) from slowing down the internet (an exploding Earth, covered with a loading sign). Other sites have their own banners, glitchy videos, and explanations of why they’re joining the Battle for the Net — an attempt to get Congress and the FCC to ban “fast lane” deals between web services and broadband companies. By definition, every fast lane creates a slow lane, so protesters have coalesced around the loading “wheel of death” to symbolize the effect.Read Article >
But back at Tumblr’s New York headquarters, the issue isn’t quite settled yet. “Are we aestheticizing this loader?” muses designer Zack Sultan. “Are we aestheticizing the iconography of our persecutors?”
Jun 4, 2014Read Article >
Nothing unites Americans more than crappy download speeds. Add in cronyism, old white guys dictating laws, and a taste of class war and you’ve got the really stupid proposal to abandon net neutrality currently moving its way through the FCC’s hallowed chambers. Expertly explained by Nilay Patel in his “The Internet is Fucked” essay, rampant protest to the FCC has been nibbling away at the foregone conclusion that the internet’s proletariat would soon all become serfs to the telecommunications industry. To continue that fight for good, John Oliver asked not just those used to being outspoken in the face of corporate greed to speak up, but those outspoken in the face of memes to use their powerful tools of trolling, comments, to get the FCC’s attention. All of those comments are public on the FCC's site, and we decided to take a look at what America is telling Tom Wheeler. Most of what they’re saying is eloquent, smart, and considered. But some of what they are saying is angry, gross, and incoherent. That's our favorite type of dialogue. So, for your reading pleasure, we’ve gathered the best of the best (worst?) of public feedback.
May 5, 2014
After years of pressure from ISPs, net neutrality is under threat by the FCC itself. Chair Tom Wheeler promised to revive the Open Internet Order after it saw an unceremonious defeat in January, but a leaked version of his latest proposal would let companies pay ISPs for a "fast lane" to subscribers, undermining the spirit of the original rules, which barred companies from discriminating between services. Despite Wheeler’s reassurances, this new proposal is the exact opposite of net neutrality. It could undermine both the companies of today and the startups of tomorrow. It might also be exactly the push activists need to fight back.Read Article >
The new rules aren’t entirely the FCC’s fault. The January court ruling in a lawsuit by Verizon gave it limited power to regulate broadband providers under existing law, and there’s only so much it can do as long as they’re classified as "information services" rather than common carriers like traditional phone companies. There’s nothing explicitly stopping it, however, from reclassifying these services, which is exactly what net neutrality supporters have been urging it to do for years. The problem is that putting ISPs under the more restrictive common carrier designation would light a political powder keg, pitting proponents of a truly open internet against business advocates who say common carrier regulations would strangle ISPs’ ability to innovate. For the past few months, Wheeler has played it safe, promising a framework that seemed fragile but ultimately inoffensive.
Apr 30, 2014
Boop boop beep boop — *snap* — boop boop. You stare at the decaying paint chips on your bedroom ceiling while that stupid jingle loops again. It’s the only ringtone that comes free with your AT&T phone, and you hear it everywhere. You hear it when you wake up. You hear it when you’re walking down the street. You hear it on TV. It’s the strongest signal in the universe, reminding you that you’re never alone. You’ve always got AT&T, and it’s always got you.Read Article >
Welcome to AT&T’s internet prison.
Feb 25, 2014
Here’s a simple truth: the internet has radically changed the world. Over the course of the past 20 years, the idea of networking all the world’s computers has gone from a research science pipe dream to a necessary condition of economic and social development, from government and university labs to kitchen tables and city streets. We are all travelers now, desperate souls searching for a signal to connect us all. It is awesome.Read Article >
And we’re fucking everything up.
Jan 15, 2014
The wrong words.Read Article >
That was the overwhelming message delivered to the FCC by the DC Circuit yesterday when it ruled to vacate the agency’s net neutrality rules. The FCC had tried to impose so-called “common carrier” regulations on broadband providers without officially classifying them as utilities subject to those types of rules, and the court rejected that sleight of hand. Most observers saw the decision coming months, if not years, ago; Cardozo Law School’s Susan Crawford called the FCC’s position a “house of cards.”
Aug 3, 2013
CBS stations have disappeared for many Time Warner Cable subscribers today, after the companies' negotiations over retransmission fees failed to reach an amicable conclusion. But cable TV users aren't the only ones without access to episodes of their favorite shows: CBS is also blocking Time Warner Cable internet subscribers from watching episodes on its website CBS.com. We can confirm that when trying to access a full episode of any CBS show, like Elementary or Two and a Half Men, those with Time Warner Cable internet will see an attack ad instead of their normal programming.Read Article >
While that might sound like a valid tactic to use in a no-holds-barred game of chicken like the one these companies are playing right now, it also flies in the face of net neutrality principles. Not net neutrality laws or rules, mind you, as the FCC Open Internet rules restrict broadband providers, not content companies like CBS.