No net neutrality: How would it impact internet consumers in the mid-state?

The FCC will vote on whether or not to keep net neutrality Dec. 14/Katie Thurber (WGXA)

MACON, Ga. -- Whether we're using a computer or our phones, we use the internet all the time.

Now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is voting on something that could change how we access it as well as how much we pay for it.

The term net neutrality is all over social media, but what does it mean?

David Hricik, a professor of law at Mercer University, said, "Net neutrality, the internet service providers, people like Verizon, AT&T, those folks are not allowed to differentiate. They have to charge everything at the same rate, a neutral rate and so you get access to everything in that way."

So despite whether you're on social media or checking your email, your internet service provider can't charge more based on what you're doing on the internet.

Those rules were put on internet service providers in 2015, but now the FCC is voting on removing them.

Assistant professor of economics at Mercer University Antonio Saravia said, "If the FCC passes the vote on ending net neutrality next week, what that would mean is that at least theoretically, Comcast, Time Warner, these internet service providers will be able to discriminate between content, possibly charging higher prices for Netflix or Youtube or whatever internet content that customers are interested in."

That means that accessing the internet could look more like cable access.

Hricik said, "You would have to potentially buy a package that allowed you to go to certain things."

Some are worried that means higher prices for the same internet they're using now. In areas like the mid-state, it could mean higher prices overall.

"In areas where there are fewer choices, like Middle Georgia. The fewer choices you have the more money they're going to be able to charge for access," said Hricik.

However, those in favor of getting rid of net neutrality assert if could be a good thing for internet service providers to charge more for certain sites and generate more money for themselves.

Saravia said, "Perhaps I can make profit only if I can discriminate content, right? So if I'm allowed to do that, I will participate in the market and I will add another internet service provider."

Those supporters say it will lead to more options for everyone who uses the internet.

"The extra profits could be reinvested and we could all have better internet at the end of the day," said Saravia.

At first though, those extra profits could be coming out of consumers' pockets.

Hricik said, "I think we're more likely to see pricing tiers. We're likely to see it become more difficult to for example to get to new sources of information of new sources of entertainment."

The FCC is voting on whether net neutrality will stay or go on Dec. 14.

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