Net neutrality has ended. What does that mean for you?

What is net neutrality?

The F.C.C. is set to repeal rules that require internet providers to give consumers equal access to all content online. Here’s how it works.
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The F.C.C. is set to repeal rules that require internet providers to give consumers equal access to all content online. Here’s how it works.

Net neutrality rules expired Monday, June 11.

North Carolina legislators attempted to prevent the inevitable by filing a bill that would have kept net neutrality on the state level. It currently sits in a committee, and it doesn't seem like it will be leaving there anytime soon. Attorney General Josh Stein, along with 20 other states, tried to sue the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in January. That didn't work either.

So what does the end of net neutrality mean? Here are the basics.

Q: What is net neutrality?

A: Net neutrality are rules that went into effect under President Barack Obama. These rules make sure internet service providers offer equal access to all web content, and don’t overcharge consumers. It also prevents internet service providers from promoting their own content over another company's.

Q: Who wants to get rid of net neutrality, and why?

A: The man with the plan is Ajit Pai, the chairman of the FCC. He was appointed to the position in 2017 by President Donald Trump. Pai has said that ending net neutrality will lead to the same innovation that brought us websites and services like Amazon and Netflix.

Some people argue it could do the opposite because these larger companies can absorb the added fees that come from the end of net neutrality, while small startups can’t.

Q: So, what will happen now that the rules are no longer in place?

A: People aren’t quite sure. Everything at this point is theoretical. Businesses are likely to feel the effects first. Large companies could pay for faster internet service, leaving smaller business with slower load times. Fees could potentially be added to your bill. Internet service providers may even start selling internet plans the way they do cable. You could have to pay a flat rate to get access to a limited number of websites, with the rate going up when you add more. If companies do decide they want to add all of these extra fees, it could affect new businesses wanting to create their own websites to be a part of the digital marketplace. They would have to pay the same fees as bigger companies to get their website to the top of the list.

Q. Why do I keep hearing about the end of net neutrality in my Twitter feed?

A: Some people are worried the end of net neutrality will result in extremely high fees. The government treated net neutrality as a public utility, like water or electricity. There were caps in place and government regulations so people could have equal access. Now, critics say, your internet provider could slow down your favorite websites or charge you a "fast lane fee" to to regain full speed access to them.

Q: So I won’t have access to all the websites I love?

A: You will still have access to them, but you might have to pay extra. It’s also possible that internet providers would be able to block some websites in hopes consumers will use their own products, or charge you to remove that block.

Q: Give me an example of what you mean.

A: Let's take Spectrum. It is one of the largest internet service providers in the Triangle area. It also own Spectrum News. Under net neutrality rules, Spectrum wasn’t allowed to slow down other sites or make Spectrum News faster. Now, they could do that to get more customers to watch Spectrum News instead of other news outlets. They would also be able to ensure Spectrum News links are always at the top of search results, even if that’s not what the consumer wants.

Q: Are my phone apps safe?

A: Not really. You still use the internet to download and use most apps. Companies could theoretically charge you more for using apps, too.

Q: Alright, so then what’s Pai’s plan to protect consumers?

A: He says the government will take a targeted approach, going after an individual company that is not behaving properly instead of imposing the net neutrality rules and regulations.