By KENDALL GILFILLAN

No doubt you’ve seen the words ‘Net Neutrality’ in recent days.

What does Net Neutrality refer to and why is it all of a sudden in the spotlight? We’ve got your need-to-know basics on the situation:

Net Neutrality is the Internet’s most basic guiding principle that has dictated how the Internet works for the entirety of it’s existence. In a word, It prohibits companies such as Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, etc. from changing the speed and accessibility of the Internet in order to favor certain content.

Now the chairman of Trump’s Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, wants to do away with Net Neutrality and his proposed plan comes to a vote Dec. 14. Chairman Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, has portrayed his proposal as one in which free-market economics can support innovation online.

The FCC’s three Republican commissioners, including Chairman Pai, are expected to vote for the Restoring Internet Freedom Order to replace the existing Open Internet Order which is conversely expected to be supported by the remaining two commissioners. Thus, it’s looking like Net Neutrality is on its way out.

A large portion of the country, however, has become outspoken in support of retaining Net Neutrality and the Open Internet Order. Since the repeal proposal announcement, the FCC has received more than 200,000 phone calls and 500,000 comments on their website. So, what would it even look like without Net Neutrality governing our online life?

Unlike open Internet, Internet not protected by Net Neutrality would see cable and phone companies acquire the ability to dictate which websites and content succeed and charge individual publishers for levels of speed and access.

“The FCC’s proposal would destroy the Internet as we know it by allowing ISP’s [Internet Service Providers] to limit or block content,” said Charlotte-Anne Lucas, director of NOWCastSA in San Antonio.

On a consumer level, many are worried about the impact this may have on their access to reliable and local news outlets. It is altogether possible that doing away with Net Neutrality could mean higher charges and different speeds from providers based upon deals they cut with individual websites. Moreover, taking away the free and open nature of the Internet could particularly target and further marginalize those in discriminated groups or impoverished areas.

At it’s core, the debate boils down to a disagreement over whether or not the Internet ought to be perceived as merely a business opportunity or as a platform of utility characterized by equal access to Web content.  Although the outcome of the Dec. 14 is expected to match predictions and favor internet as a business opportunity, we will be back with updated information with the implications and reactions following the decision.