Survey finds vast majority of Americans are clueless about net neutrality

Flickr via Arbeitskreis Vorratsdaten. Click for original.
(Image: © Flickr via Arbeitskreis Vorratsdaten)

The Federal Communications Commission is on the verge of tearing down net neutrality rules that were put in place by the previous administration. There is plenty of blame to go around on how we got to this point—being a partisan issue, net neutrality proponents can point the finger at Republicans, who are in control of Congress; Democrats for not winning the presidential election; and FCC chairman Ajit Pai, who has a long history of opposing government regulation for broadband services. However the biggest reason net neutrality rules are in danger might be due to a lack of understanding of what exactly net neutrality is.

Given the extensive media coverage, most people have probably heard of net neutrality, even if they don't know what it is. And according to a new survey, the majority of Americans don't understand the concept of net neutrality.

The folks at Extreamist pinged 768 US citizens and asked them if they knew what net neuratlity meant. A whopping 72 percent of resondands answered no, versus just 22 percent who said yes. The other 6 percent chose not to answer at all.

That is a limited sample size, but if it were to hold true on a broader scale, it would mean that roughly 7 out of 10 Americans are clueless in regards to net neutrality.

When asked if they were aware that the FCC voted to roll back net neutrality rules, 81 percent said they weren't. Only 15 percent said yes, and another 4 percent did not answer for some reason. Even if we throw the non respondents into the "yes" category, that still works out to just less than 2 out of 10 people.

We have to be careful to not read too much into this survey—in addition to be a relatively small sample size, we don't know any other details about the respondents, such as their age, how and when they were asked these questions, and other details that could affect the survey results.

Still, we would not be surprised if this survey was at least partially representative of the populace at large. Outside of tech circles, there does not appear to be a lot educating going on that is focused on net neutrality. That's a problem, no matter which side of the debate you are on. Even if you're in favor of rolling back the rules, you should want it happen based on the will of informed voters. And if you're against dismantling the rules, the lack of understand makes the battle to ensure a fair and leveled Internet an even greater uphill battle than it has become.

That said, more than 10 million people did flood the FCC with opinions on its proposal to roll back the rules during an initial commenting period, followed by more than 10 million comments during a second phase that ended August 16.