See How Net Neutrality Will Affect You

Net neutrality has been a hot-button topic for almost a year now, since the Federal Communications Commission’s rules regarding equal treatment of all Internet traffic were shot down by a Washington D.C. appeals court in January. While the issue is raising outrage from both sides, many people don’t fully understand what having or not having net neutrality laws in place means for the average consumer.

The video above does a good job of explaining how traffic will be handled differently should the web remain unprotected by net neutrality rules, but an unprotected Internet could have much more significant effects than making Netflix movies load more slowly. Firstly, if Internet service providers can charge content providers like Netflix for faster traffic — the opportunity to get on that “first truck” — then those providers will very likely keep raising monthly subscription fees in order to cover those charges. ISPs aren’t going to reduce their prices for broadband anytime soon — in fact, they’ve been trying big mergers that industry analysts said would raise the cost of Internet — so in the long run an unprotected Internet means more money coming out of the pockets of the average consumer.

A bigger picture and more long-term issue raised by net neutrality is the question of Internet innovation. Some, including FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, believe that an unprotected Internet will result in an Internet landscape that’s dominated by big, rich, established companies while smaller start-ups that can’t afford to pay ISPs for improved traffic won’t ever be heard. Wheeler has said that without net neutrality laws, the next Google or Facebook might never happen.

On the flip side, others have argued that increased regulation of the Internet, including a proposal to reclassify broadband as a utility in order to gain more FCC oversight, will be the thing that dampens innovation in the tech sphere.

Meanwhile, powerful companies are lobbying both sides of the political spectrum to get their way. Tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Netflix have argued that net neutrality is a key aspect of America’s current democratic technology landscape, but they also don’t want to pay high fees to ISPs. ISPs like Comcast and Verizon want to collect said fees really badly and have successfully challenged net neutrality in court to that end.

The FCC has been working on coming to some sort of determination for some time, and recently President Barack Obama stepped in to take a stand on the matter and echo the voices of millions who have signed petitions in favor of net neutrality, though FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler found the President’s statement a little behind where matters stand in the debate currently, reports TechCrunch.

 

More from Tech Cheat Sheet:

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS