So what is Net Neutrality, and what does it mean for you?
Net Neutrality, loosely defined, is the term for when all internet traffic is treated equally. This is what we currently have.
The internet is not defined as a public utility by the FCC. This means that the standardization and regulation that apply to water, electricity, and telephone service do not apply to the internet.
After browsing the internet and visiting a website, that traffic is processed with the same priority as everyone else, regardless of the details of your internet plan.
The FCC, earlier this year, was required to rewrite rules and regulations regarded to the internet traffic and data processing.
This revision is focused on rules from 2010, but the update contains wording that internet providers could exploit, creating internet "fast lanes." This means that, for example, if YouTube were to pay for such a "fast lane," their website would load more quickly than a company's who did not pay for the same thing.
"What's wrong with this, and why should I care?" you might ask. The answer is simple.
If companies are allowed to pay for "fast lanes," those websites will run slower because they are not owned by big businesses.
The problem lies in the fact that the internet was built by individuals. When YouTube was first started, it was designed and supervised by only a few individuals. They had no prior capital or ability to invest large amounts of money into "fast lanes" so the data could be loaded more quickly.
If the FCC's new laws were in place back then, we may never have seen Twitter, Instagram, or even Facebook become the powerhouses they are today.
Other problems lie with the possible introduction of the FCC's new laws.
The websites we, as college students use for research, such as JSTOR, may choose not to pay for fast lanes, with the speed they load slowing down immensely. This means more time spent on that final research paper.
Another possibility, although likely not the first of many issues, is that fast lanes may extend past large companies who have the money to invest. They may eventually reach to a household level, which you pay extra to get a faster access to websites or services.
Imagine an internet in which you not only pay for base service, but all of your favorite websites run slower than usual – unless you pay them for a fast lane.
So why does the FCC think something like this is a good idea?
Essentially, creating internet fast lanes gives the large internet providers (Looking at you, Comcast) a way to make more money from companies who have popular websites.
An early form of internet fast lanes can be seen in recent Netflix issues.
Netflix had so much internet traffic, that it was slowing down service providers’ infrastructures. The largest companies felt that Netflix should pay them more money, so they could update their infrastructure to handle the huge amount of data being processed.
Netflix refused to pay these companies extra money, and this is essentially how the issue of Net Neutrality came into being.
After extended pressure from these companies, and Netflix's streaming service being slowed to a crawl, they decided to give in and pay these companies.
Netflix now pays four major service providers in the US money so that their traffic can be processed at the same speed as every other website.
These new laws would also create an unfair and biased internet, in which powerhouse companies such as AT&T and Comcast could pick "winners" and "losers," for developing internet companies, undermining the free-market economy our country was built on.
But why would it matter if AT&T could have a choice in who succeeds and who fails?
Here's an example. Say AT&T had a new service, which analyzed your music tastes and suggested new music for you to check out.
If an individual designed a website or application with the same idea, yet performed miles ahead of AT&T's, AT&T could slow their internet traffic down, grind the new company's web traffic to a halt, effectively ending their competition.
This basically gives these large service providers a huge amount of power, and makes the "American Dream" just that – a dream.
So what can we do to stop these companies from exploiting the FCC's new regulations?
The first thing is to let the FCC know your opinion. You can leave comments on their website.
The next thing is to contact your local representatives. Congressmen and women are there to represent your interests. Let them know and make your opinion heard on this matter.
It is important to keep in mind that this situation is changing rapidly. Although the regulation can be exploited, it has yet to be passed into law.
It is important to note, however, that most of the large internet providers support fast lanes, and are actively lobbying for their implementation.