Two Types of Neutrality
So far, much of the argument over "net neutrality" has been over whether service providers should be allowed to favor one application, destination or Internet service over another. This is Net neutrality at the application layer. But the real issue is the neutrality of the IP layer where routers treat alike bits from every type of application. This neutrality is what makes the Internet flexible -- while it also assures uniform treatment of information flow. If this neutrality is not maintained, the Internet will be changed fundamentally. It will no longer be the flexible, open platform that allows anyone with a good idea to compete on a level ground.
IP-layer neutrality is not a property of the Internet. It is the Internet. The Internet is a set of agreements (protocols) that enable networks to work together. The heart of the Internet protocol is the agreement that all data packets will be passed through without regard to which application created them or what's inside of them. This reliable, uniform treatment of packets is precisely what has made the Internet a marketplace of innovation so critical to our economy.
Providers certainly should be allowed to develop services within their own networks, treating data any way they want. But that's not the Internet. If they want to participate in the Internet, they need to follow the protocols that have been developed over the course of more than thirty years through consensus standards processes. Nor should they be permitted to single-handedly subvert the authority of the processes that have developed and maintained the Internet.
We call on Congress to end the confusion and protect not only the Internet but the tens of millions of American citizens who need to know that when they buy Internet access, they're getting access to the real Internet. Network providers who offer services that depend on violating IP-layer neutrality should be prohibited from labeling those services as "Internet," as their doing so will only undermine the weight of consensus authority presently accorded to the existing standards. The term "Internet" represents specific standards that provide IP-layer neutral connectivity that supports the openness of access and innovation that have been the defining characteristics of the Internet since its origins.
To that end, we present the attached draft legislative language and call for concerned citizens and members of Congress to offer their support for passing it into law.