Net Neutrality

Since the internet became a widespread tool for citizens and businesses, there has been a concern over the possibility that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) might require users to pay a fee to gain access to all websites, and might require websites to pay a fee to have the fastest available download speeds.  To address this concern, ‘net neutrality’ rules were established by the Obama Administration in 2014 that guaranteed all websites and users would be treated equally by ISPs. 

In April 2017, under the Trump administration, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) announced their intention to repeal these ‘net neutrality’ rules. On December 14th, 2017 the FCC voted to repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules. This repeal went into effect in June 2018.

In the run-up to the FCC decision, on December 7th, 2017, legislation was introduced to stop the repeal — the Save Net Neutrality Act was introduced by Rep. Sean Maloney (D) (H.R. 4585). This bill did not make it out of committee. A similar bill was introduced in 2019, the Save the Internet Act, by Sen. Ed Markey (D), but also did not make it out of committee. In 2021, the Acting Chairwoman of the FCC voiced support for net neutrality, but the FCC has yet to formally reinstate the 2015 rules.

  • National Sample: 1,077
  • Margin of Error: +/- 3.0%
  • Fielded: December 6 - 8, 2017
  • Questionnaire

Proposals covered:

  • Repealing the net neutrality regulations put in place in 2015

  • National Sample: 997
  • Margin of Error: +/- 3.1%
  • Fielded: March 9 - 23, 2018
  • Questionnaire

Proposals covered:

  • Repealing the net neutrality regulations put in place in 2015

NET NEUTRALITY

In December 2017, respondents were introduced to the debate that was occurring at the time over the FCC’s plan to repeal the net neutrality rules that were put in place under the Obama administration.  Respondents informed that Internet Service Providers (ISPs), like Verizon or Comcast, at that time were required to:

  • provide customers access to all websites on the internet
  • provide equal access to all websites without giving any websites faster or slower download speeds

and were not allowed to:

  • charge websites to provide faster download speeds for those who visit their website
  • charge customers, who use the internet, an extra fee to visit specific websites.

They were told that the proposal is to remove these regulations, though the ISPs would be required to disclose any variation in download speeds or blocking of any websites.

They then evaluated the dominant argument for and an argument against the proposal to repeal net neutrality regulations. The arguments in favor did much worse than those against. The argument against did much better among Republicans than Democrats. 

Asked for their final recommendation, a large bipartisan majority of 83% opposed repealing net neutrality regulations, including 75% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats. 

After the decision was made, the FCC put new emphasis on another argument in support of repealing net neutrality.  PPC subsequently re-ran the survey with the previous set of arguments plus the new pro argument and a counter argument.  This new pro argument was found convincing by a bare majority (52%), including 65% of Republicans, but just 42% of Democrats. The new con argument was found convincing by 72%, with minimal partisan difference.

Asked for their final recommendation, this time a slightly large bipartisan majority of 86% opposed repealing net neutrality regulations, including 82% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats. 

Related Standard Polls
In polls that provided some definition of net neutrality, bipartisan majorities have supported it:

  • Told that, “Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers providing consumer connection to the Internet should treat all data on the internet the same, not giving specific advantages or penalties in access by user, content, website, platform, or application” and then asked, “Based on all the things you know or have heard, do you support or oppose net neutrality,” 76% were in support, including 73% of Republicans and 81% of Democrats. (May 2017, Mozilla/Ipsos)
  • Told that, “Net neutrality is a set of rules which said that ISPs can not block, throttle, or prioritize certain content on the internet,” and asked whether they support or oppose net neutrality, 60% were in support, including 63% of Republicans and 62% of Democrats. A substantial 23% did not express any opinion (Republicans 21%, Democrats 20%) (May 2018, Morning Consult/Politico)

Status of Proposal
After the FCC voted in favor of repealing net neutrality, but before it officially went into effect, Members of Congress introduced legislation to overturn the FCC’s decision and restore net neutrality. In February 2018, S.J.Res 52 was introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D) in the 115th Congress, which would reverse the repeal, and restore net neutrality. In May 2018 the Senate passed this resolution, with 48 Democrats, two Republicans and two independents voting in favor, and 47 Republicans voting against. The resolution was never voted on in the House.

There is legislation in the 116th Congress to permanently reinstate net neutrality: the Save the Internet Act (H.R. 1644, S. 682), sponsored by Rep. Michael Doyle (D) and Sen. Ed Markey (D).  The bill passed the House, with 231 Democrats and 1 Republican voting in favor, and 190 Republicans voting against. It has not yet been taken up by the Senate.