The Federal Communications Commission is on track to end neutrality on the world wide web in December. The public needs to rise up, contact their Congressional representatives and demand that net neutrality be maintained.

Net neutrality may be a term that technical folks understand; the term itself is not Average Joe friendly. What is it? Why does it matter?

Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers must treat all data on the the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication

For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.

Those who get internet service have access to the web and its millions of sites for a monthly fee from a provider. Access speed to any web site is the same regardless of content. This is the way the open internet has worked for more than 10 years.

Under the open internet, the full resources of the internet and means to operate on it is easily accessible to all individuals, companies, and organizations.

If the FCC does away with net neutrality it will open the door for internet providers to block or censor sites they don’t like or they can charge a premium for access. Currently users have unfettered access to every type of site imaginable—some don’t like that because it allows some very ugly speech and viewpoints. But that is no reason to do away with neutrality—every disagreeable viewpoint can be countered with acceptable views. No single ideology dominates the web; in our current political climate people will always find a site that reenforces their own opinions.

Aside from censorship, doing away with net neutrality would allow providers to charge whatever they wish for access to popular sites. You could pay for basic internet (much like basic cable television) and then pay additional for things like social media sites, sports sites and all the most popular sites on the net.

Millions of Americans have already signed petitions and logged complaints about the end of net neutrality, and yet the FCC seems bent on doing away with it. If it goes away, as expected, on Dec. 14, the public has several avenues of recourse.

The providers of internet service must get municipal approval to operate in a city. The city can certainly dictate terms of operations: give our citizens net neutrality or we’ll go our own way. That own way could very well be a consortium of local governments (counties and cities) to create their own fiber optic network. Some in the free market don’t want to see internet classified as a utility such as electricty or water, but isn’t that what it is?

Cable television subscriptions leveled off and are now falling as more households ‘cut the cable’ and use the internet to watch their favorite shows. One day that may seem like a futile plan.

Aside from contacting Congressional representatives to stop any move to end neutrality there most likely will be a court challenge in the near future. As long as the plaintiffs have standing, such a case would be one of the most important to be decided, as one expects it to eventually land at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nobody and no organization owns the internet. Every user already pays a monthly fee for access. The net is here and will remain here and it has changed the way we live and communicate. The millions of internet users in the United States should not wake up one day in late December and find their favorite sites blocked or slowed or available only for an extra charge.

The end of net neutrality will affect every aspect of modern life and the public should be aware of it and fight it any way they can.

  —LAZ