Net Neutrality Is Happening Now

NETA federal judge on Thursday rejected cable and phone companies’ attempts to stop net neutrality in its tracks. That means the FCC’s plan for new Internet rules go into effect as planned.

Here’s what that means for you:

What changes Friday? The FCC will be able to assert extra authority over the Internet to establish net neutrality.

What is net neutrality? It’s like equal opportunity for Internet speeds and access to websites: no unfair fast or slow lanes, and no blocking of anything that’s legal on your phone, computer or tablet.

Isn’t that what exists today? For the most part. In reality, the world won’t look much different on Friday. Netflix won’t suddenly stream any faster for you. AT&T (T, Tech30) and Comcast (CMCSA) won’t abruptly stop laying down high-speed fiber cables and investing in their networks as retaliation.

But the net neutrality rules mean Verizon can’t block Google Wallet on your smartphone, like it did in 2011. Your phone carrier can’t block tethering apps, which turn your phone into an Internet hotspot for your laptop or tablet. AT&T can’t block video chatting apps like FaceTime or Google Hangouts. And Comcast can’t slow down file-sharing websites, like it did to BitTorrent a few years ago.

Who supports net neutrality? AOL (AOL, Tech30), Facebook (FB, Tech30), Netflix (NFLX, Tech30), Twitter (TWTR, Tech30), Vimeo and every other major Internet company are in favor of the FCC’s new rules. They create the content you read and watch online, and they don’t want to face discrimination by network owners who can threaten to charge higher fees or slow them down.

Who is against it? AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable (TWC), Verizon (VZ, Tech30) and other Internet service providers don’t want additional rules. They believe the FCC’s existing rules are sufficient to support net neutrality.

They own the networks and fear price controls. Fearing a bad business environment, AT&T has threatened to pause investment in its infrastructure.

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