You may take for granted that the company that connects you to the Internet has no control over what you do online. Or perhaps you live in a country where Internet access plans restrict or give preference to certain music, films or social media apps.

In an effort to ensure that everyone has equal access to the open Web and whatever online services they choose to use, many countries have introduced “net neutrality” laws and protections. When such rules are introduced, it often involves consumers raising their voices and convincing regulators to ignore powerful telecom industry lobbyists.

In 2010, Chile became the first country to enshrine net neutrality into law. Many countries have since proposed, passed, or considered such legal protections for Internet openness. Regrettably, some victories can be short-lived. The United States repealed federal net neutrality protections in 2017 that were passed in 2015. In other cases, the law itself is only the first step; for instance, net neutrality came into force in the European Union in 2016, but most of its 28 countries have yet to begin enforcing in earnest.

Despite setbacks, public awareness and support for net neutrality has grown in many countries. India, the second largest online population, reinforced its commitment to net neutrality in 2017. Individual U.S. states have also introduced protections in defiance of federal regulators. And more countries are considering protections, including South Africa.



Data source: Status of Net Neutrality Around the World, Global Net Neutrality Coalition, Access Now, 2017