If you’ve been on social media lately, you’ve likely seen news around net neutrality. If you’re not sure what’s going on, don’t worry. This guide will explain what net neutrality is and what it means for you.

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality prohibits broadband companies from blocking or charging users for certain websites. It regulates businesses that connect consumers to the internet. These include AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast. These companies must treat all content the same under net neutrality. For example, they can’t slow down one website to give a competitor an advantage. Without net neutrality, the broadband companies have much more power over the internet.

What happened?

On Thursday, December 14, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to end net neutrality. They repealed Obama-era net neutrality rules. The vote was led by FCC chairman Ajit Pai. Ajit Pai defended the vote by saying broadband providers would offer a wider variety of services. That would benefit the consumer and promote competition.

Though the decision will take weeks to go into effect, the political fight has begun. Democrats of Capital Hill and state attorneys said they would file a suit. Public interest groups such as Free Press, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and the Internet Association also promised a suit.

How are Broadband companies reacting?

Two major companies, AT&T and Comcast, promised consumers their online experience wouldn’t change. However, there’s been incidences in the past when they dd not abide by an open internet. For example, AT&T blocked FaceTime and Skype until 2009 because they competed with its own voice-call business.

What that means for you.

In the short run, broadband companies are likely not going to change much since the spotlight is on them. In the longer run, though, there may be changes since companies can give priority to movies, music, and companies they’re associated with. This would hurt rival companies such as Amazon. Small businesses and future startups would also suffer since larger corporations may be given an advantage online.

The consequences can also be felt by marginalized communities. This includes people of color, the LGBTQ community, and religious minorities. They have relied on the open internet to fight discrimination and organize economic and educational opportunities.

Without the open internet, activists may face difficulty in fighting oppression and organizing protests since the internet could block dissident voices from speaking online. This is the loss of a vital platform for freedom of speech.

In short, expect much more competition favoring larger corporations and deepening economic disparities. In the near future, you won’t see much change, but in the longer run, broadband companies are likely to take advantage of their power.

You may not even be able to read this article as freely or as easily in the future. If you are against the repeal of net neutrality, urge your lawmaker to use a resolution of disapproval that can reverse the FCC’s vote and bring net neutrality back.