Net Neutrality: Why You Should Be Paying Attention To The Battle For Equal Internet

Shelley Hazen

Imagine an Internet where the wealthiest companies paid Time Warner Cable to get your attention. In that world, those little Mom and Pop websites, too poor to pay the fee, wouldn't get noticed. And the web wouldn't be the free-for-all it is now. That is net neutrality.

The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote on stringent net neutrality laws – which companies like TWC, AT&T, and Comcast are opposed to – on Thursday, but no one is expecting the arguments to die down after the vote, the Wall Street Journal reported.

This vote is important because right now, the FCC can't protect the open Internet. Its last net neutrality laws were nixed by a federal court and the agency had to start from scratch, according to USA Today. Net neutrality rules protect access to all web sites– it lets you, the consumer, access whatever content you like. Basically, a small business' web site, Netflix, and your friend's personal blog all load at the same speeds. No one is favored.

Ten years ago, Google and Facebook were at the helm of the net neutrality issue, the Journal explained – they wanted the rules. The FCC didn't do anything, and Google built its own network so it could be responsible for its own traffic. Now Google is a powerhouse, and though it has no formal position on net neutrality, the company's chairman has said President Obama's support of it is a blunder.

The "for" and "against" camps are pretty equally drawn. Generally, Internet providers aren't too fond of net neutrality rules – they think the rules will turn the FCC into playground bullies. Content providers, like Netflix, Etsy, or Tumlr, like the idea of stricter rules, the Journal explained.

And there's a lot of confusion about what net neutrality means for everyone else. Will you still be able to stream Walking Dead on Netflix, browse Etsy, and peruse obscure Tumblr blogs with ease? Will the Internet shut down?

Net neutrality is meant to make sure the web remains the crazy circus it is now, and that consumers' online experience is untouched. Internet providers won't be allowed to do anything that would favor certain sites or harm consumers, added USA Today. One insider explained what net neutrality isn't to Think Progress.

"The FCC is not regulating the internet … The internet is many things, but most of the internet is outside of the FCC's authority … They won't use [net neutrality] as an excuse to control what you watch."