Three Ways Losing Net Neutrality Will Screw You Over If FCC Ends Regulations

Your internet bill could get much higher if net neutrality goes away. Reuters

Slower internet and fewer services for more money.

That could be your future on the internet if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) follows through on its plans to end net neutrality regulations on internet providers. A commission vote on December 14 will determine whether the government will bring an end to Obama-era regulations—and, with them, an end to the internet as we know it.

Currently, internet service providers must allow equal access to all content regardless of the source, and they are not allowed to prioritize or slow down any web traffic. A repeal would allow companies that provide internet access to customers, such as Spectrum and Verizon, to create and sell website bundles similar to the way cable television works.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai claims that eliminating net neutrality will lead to more investment and competition in the internet service provider industry. But killing net neutrality could also lead to a slower, more restricted internet and benefit the largest websites to the detriment of smaller companies—and, especially, to average consumers. Here's how:

The FCC is getting ready to overturn #NetNeutrality. If they succeed, ISPs will be able to split the net into packages. This means that you will no longer be able to pay one price to access any site you want.

— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) November 21, 2017

Consumers Will Pay More

If net neutrality is repealed, it's possible that users visiting Twitter will see a pop-up from their service provider saying they need to pay an extra $10 each month to access social media. It's also possible that service providers will start offering tiered internet packages. If a user can't afford the most expensive package, the user may not be able to easily stream videos or play games.

There are also indirect costs from killing net neutrality. Giant online retailers like Amazon would be able to pay to load faster than competing websites, making comparison shopping difficult.

It's not yet clear exactly how much prices will shoot up. But Portugal, a country without net neutrality, could serve as an example. Meo, a large Portuguese wireless carrier, offers its users five packages that cost the equivalent of about $8.25 each. One includes email services like Gmail and Yahoo Mail, while another has YouTube and Netflix. Music apps (such as Spotify, SoundCloud and Google Play Music), messaging apps (like WhatsApp, Skype and FaceTime) and social media sites round out the available packages. The bundles include only big-name apps, leaving their smaller competitors out in the cold.

Not All Sites Will Be Equal

Without net neutrality rules, broadband providers could offer faster internet speeds to companies that pay while slowing down speeds for those that don't, creating fast and slow lanes online.

Some experts worry internet providers that typically provide cable TV as well could penalize websites that have eaten into cable profits, such as Netflix or YouTube.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) argued that YouTube became what it is today because of the absence of internet fast lanes.

"Internet service providers treated YouTube's videos the same as they did Google's, and Google couldn't pay the ISPs [internet service providers] to gain an unfair advantage, like a fast lane into consumers' homes," they wrote. "Well, it turned out that people liked YouTube a lot more than Google Video, so YouTube thrived."

New Companies Won't Be Able to Compete

In April, 800 startups sent a letter to the FCC saying they were deeply concerned about their ability to compete with larger companies if net neutrality ends.

"Without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the Internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market," the letter read. "They could impede traffic from our services in order to favor their own services or established competitors. Or they could impose new tolls on us, inhibiting consumer choice."

In other words, if a customer using Spectrum as an internet provider searches for information about alternative providers, the results could be severely limited.