The times, they are a-changin’.

Trump built his campaign on the foundation of deregulation, so it’s no surprise that he’s already set out to reverse the FCC regulations regarding net neutrality. But what exactly does this mean for consumers, marketers, and digital media companies?

Here’s everything you need to know about net neutrality and the implications of its impending dissipation.

What is Net Neutrality?

In a nutshell, net neutrality is the principle that individuals should be free to access all online content equally, without interference from Internet Service Providers (ISPs). In other words, your provider shouldn’t be able to slow down certain services or applications to control what you view on the web.

When the internet was first established, the principle of net neutrality never really came into question. It was assumed that all content would be transmitted and consumed equally. But as the digital world transformed into something much bigger than its creators ever imagined, so too did internet providers. As a result, internet service was left to be delved out by a select few powerful household names (AT&T, Time Warner, Comcast, etc.).

It wasn’t long before lawsuits started popping up across the nation, claiming that some ISPs were abusing their newfound power by prioritizing certain content. Americans asked the FCC to step in and prevent ISPs from abusing their power. Finally, in 2015, after an unprecedented outpouring of public support, the FCC voted to enact the strongest net neutrality rules in history under Obama’s administration.

The Death of Net Neutrality & the Future of the Internet

In his first days as President, Trump aggressively moved to reverse the consumer protection regulations created back in 2015. So what does the sudden death of net neutrality mean for the future of the Internet?

Until recently, net neutrality rules have prevented ISPs from treating certain sites or services differently than others for the sake of their own best interests. Without regulations, they can keep users from visiting some websites and opt to provide slower speeds for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

In the absence of net neutrality, there would also no longer be regulations preventing companies from buying priority access to Internet users. For example, massively wealthy companies like Google could pay to give users faster access than their competitors. This could be detrimental for start-up services that may not have the initial capital to pay priority access prices.

What This Means For the Consumer

For starters, without regulations, “ISPs can choose which content they want on their networks, what speeds they want to serve it at, and how much they want to charge you for content they own versus content other people own.”

We can’t say for certain what will happen in the absence of net neutrality regulations. But it couldn’t hurt to finish binge watching your favorite show while you still have a reliable connection and an $8 Netflix subscription.

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Author Ami Foote

A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Ami is a staff writer at L&T. She has previously written for Ireland.com, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Britax Child Safety, and a variety of non-profits around the country. On a good day, you can find Ami obsessively consuming one or all of the following: folk music, NPR, black coffee, jeopardy, or Guinness.

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