Net neutrality: What it is and how it could affect your Internet speed

(WYTV) – Net neutrality — it’s a term we’ve all heard a lot about but one most of us don’t quite understand.

Net neutrality is a rule Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must follow, giving you and everyone else the same Internet without charging differently according to user, content, website, or application.

President Trump’s new head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to make major changes to net neutrality.

So what does this mean for you?

To give you some background, the FCC labeled broadband internet a public utility in 2015, meaning anyone can use it and ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner have to treat all web traffic equally. They can’t throttle it, they can’t slow it down.

So someone streaming Hulu is going to get the same speeds you’d get on Netflix.

But now, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to change things and critics say it could be dangerous to the Internet we know today.

In May, he announced his plan to overturn the 2015 decision.

The public was very vocal about the issue. The FCC received nearly 22 million total responses during the public comments period.

With a vote coming soon, the public continues to protest the change.

Those in favor of the new rules point out that before 2015, the concept of net neutrality was mostly followed by major ISPs without being implemented.

“We had almost 20 years of experience before these regulations and none of that type of conduct manifested itself. We didn’t see companies willy-nilly blocking access to lawful Internet,” Pai said.

While we didn’t see blocking access to sites, we did see something close.

In 2014, Comcast was accused of slowing down Netflix’s streaming speed, as the video streaming site accounted for more than 30 percent of Comcast’s web traffic.

“It really has helped our economy and I think it’s important that it continue to be accessible to everybody,” Sen. Rob Portman said.

Chairman Pai argues the market will drive companies that throttle or block sites out of business. However, vocal critics — including Amazon, Facebook, and Google — say net neutrality is a must.

“I don’t like this new net neutrality policy at all,” Sen. Sherrod Brown said. “I think it undermines access to the Internet, low-cost access to the Internet. I just think in this country now, the rich are getting richer and the middle class is shrinking.”

ISPs haven’t been silent on this either.

Comcast maintains that it “will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content.”

The worry then becomes that while Internet providers wouldn’t throttle speeds, they would create a so-called Internet fast lane — giving faster Internet than what you already have at an additional price.

Opponents of the rule change are urging people to call on their representatives in Congress, asking them to step in and replace it with new legislation that keeps the current rules in place.

The FCC will vote on this new proposed rule change on December 14.