Net Neutrality is not a law but a standard belief that prohibits internet service providers from slowing down, speeding up or blocking websites or content you want to see.  On December 14th, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to vote on changing the rules that keeps the internet unrestricted and open to the public. 

So what does this mean to you, the average user?  It means that your online experience will change.  Right now you have certain expectations when you go online.  Whether you are streaming a movie from Netflix, doing some online shopping or simply sharing pictures of your son’s recent birthday party – you expect the internet to treat every byte of data the same.  Without Net Neutrality an Internet Service Provider (ISP) can throttle down your service, make you pay extra for faster service or block services and sites all together.  

Another reason it is so important is that the Internet is an open forum.  You have the freedom of expression and free speech.  There are websites where you can read thoughts and ideas different from your own and have the ability to respond.  Net Neutrality allows for this to happen.  What is being proposed by the FCC would give ISPs the ability to control this and/or discriminate against any applications or content that moves over their networks.  I heard a great comparison:  it would be the same if your phone company decided who you can call and what you can say on that phone call. 

If we don’t have Net Neutrality, ISP’s (both cable and phone companies) could split the internet into slow and fast lanes.  Think of it this way, Comcast could slow down the service for Netflix and give preferential treatment to its own service or one of Netflix’s competitors like Hulu.  They could also block information they disagree with such as political content.  Finally, the ISPs could charge extra fees to companies that have the need and means to pay more.

Finally, I believe Net Neutrality is critical for small business owners that rely on the internet for their business applications.  Some companies use the internet to advertise products and services while others use it as a tool to access their data in the cloud.  Additionally, companies that provide remote support to their clients will feel the pinch if they are not able to provide support quickly.  In the end, Net Neutrality provides that everyone has a fair and equal chance of succeeding. 

If you oppose the ending of Net Neutrality and would like to get involved and have your voice heard, here are a couple of ideas: