"Net Neutrality," as it is so cleverly termed, is under threat of being repealed. When you peel back the layers of jargon that generally surround the issue, this is why it matters.
Net neutrality gives internet users equal access to the internet. Providers like Comcast or Verizon can’t determine what content users access. Any content creator is on an even playing field; the speed with which news from NBC can be accessed is no different from the speed with which news from ABC can be accessed.
While net neutrality benefits internet users, it can disadvantage certain internet providers. Comcast, for example, has an affiliation with NBC; as a business, it would be smarter and more profitable to push NBC’s content. Users could then lose the speed or ease with which they access other media sources, and consequently, the freedom to choose the sources they frequent. Steve Lohr of The New York Times explains the threat of “pay-to-play technology,” in which content creators would be required to pay to ensure that their content is quickly accessed. This could then be “prohibitive for start-up companies and new voices in the media and entertainment worlds.”
This is especially important in Trump’s America, where news media and journalism constantly fall under fire for being “fake.” We’ve enjoyed the liberty of choosing how to filter the information available to us, and receiving it from countless sources. This was threatened in 2014, and the backlash was overwhelming. Figures like John Oliver started micro-revolutions encouraging internet commenters to flood the website behind the control of net neutrality: the Federal Communications Commission.
Under the Obama administration, net neutrality remained protected, but on Tuesday, November 22nd, the FCC dismantled the regulations that otherwise protected it. Current FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, defended the decision, arguing that “What we wanted to do is return to the free market consensus that started in the Clinton administration and that served the internet economy in America very well for many years." Similarly, Comcast has provided that “We do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content- and we will be transparent with our customers about these policies.”
The viability of these claims is difficult to measure, given that the vote over net neutrality isn’t set to happen until December 14th. The most that can be anticipated is a heavy debate and further announcements from content creators like Google or Facebook on how they plan to proceed with potential changes. Remaining well informed is of more importance than ever; the information available is still on a guaranteed level playing field for three more weeks.