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FCC's net neutrality vote: What's at stake & why you should care

Wednesday - 13/12/2017 19:58
As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prepares to vote on whether net neutrality rules passed by the Obama administration should be overturned, here's a reminder of what exactly is at stake, and why you should care.
Simply defined, net neutrality – also called the open internet – is the concept that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must treat all online content equally and not give preference to any one digital content provider. The current rules, put in place during Barack Obama's administration, consider the internet to be a public utility and therefore subject to regulation. In short, ISPs have to deliver all websites at the same speed, representing fairness.

However, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was appointed to his position by President Donald Trump, proposed in May that the internet's public-utility status should be abolished. If he gets his way, your internet experience could soon be transformed from an equal playing field to a money-driven enterprise.

According to Pai's opponents, there are two ways that money could influence the way you experience the internet. The first scenario is that you, the consumer, could be forced to pay more money to your ISP to ensure that your favorite websites are delivered to you at a suitable speed. Some have speculated that this could come in the form of paying more for an "unlimited" internet package, which gives you access to the things you already have but might soon be taken away.

The other scenario is that corporations could pay more to receive preferential treatment by ISPs, tilting the internet in their favor over their smaller (and poorer) competitors. Imagine that scenario as paid priority "fast lanes." ISPs could also begin favoring content they own over that of their competitors.

Who is in favor of net neutrality?

A large number of popular websites posted protests against scrapping net neutrality on Tuesday, including Reddit, Kickstarter, Etsy, Pinterest, Imgur, and Mozilla. "We’re sorry, but you’ve exceeded your allotted bandwidth for HTTPS://WWW.REDDIT.COM. Please update your internet plan to continue browsing," Reddit wrote on its website, in a foreshadowing of what it believes will happen if Pai gets his way.

Hacktivist group Anonymous also threatened a "destructive" cyberattack against the FCC's website to protest against plans to abolish net neutrality. The threat was tweeted by various accounts apparently linked to the collective.

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