What Is Net Neutrality and Why Are People Freaking Out?

Photo Credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Odds are, you’ve probably seen the phrase “net neutrality” somewhere online in the past month or so, and for good reason. Net neutrality is the idea that all websites will load just as fast as any other site when you access them from your device. From streaming Netflix to posting on Facebook to shopping on Amazon and reading articles on First to Know, your internet speed for all of these activities are the same under our current net neutral system. But that could all change very soon.

Ajit Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon and now the FCC Chairman appointed by the Trump Administration, wants to end net neutrality and give Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) the freedom to pick and choose which sites you’ll have access to and others that may not load at all.

Consumers are worried that this will lead to a “website package” model much like how TV channel packages are sold by cable providers. This will allow your ISP to put extra price tags on popular websites, and some websites may even become inaccessible if you don’t want to shell out the extra cash.

Here’s a mockup infographic you may see coming to an Internet Service Provider near you:

All the major players have come out in support of keeping net neutrality where it is. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Snapchat and other tech companies could all lose money if their consumers’ access is restricted. Meanwhile, Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and other ISPs are wringing their hands together, promising they won’t abuse their new freedoms if given the chance.

Unfortunately for you and me, there’s not much impact we as consumers have on whether net neutrality stays or goes. The FCC’s decision is made by a 5-member board, and 3 of the 5 have already said that they will be voting to repeal net neutrality. That means this is already looking like a done deal, but feel free to call your Congressman and complain!

So how long do we have until Net Neutrality is a thing of the past? There’s an official vote slated for December 14th.