The issue: 

The FCC plans to turn the open internet into a toll road that offers preferential treatment to certain content and blocks or slows other sources.

What we think: 

The end of net neutrality will inhibit freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas and throttle interstate commerce for small businesses.

There’s one concept that creates an egalitarian marketplace on the internet: net neutrality. That means the big guys — Comcast, CenturyLink, Verizon, Time Warner — can’t charge to carry your content over their lines or slow transmission of your information so those who pay extra can travel in the fast lane; they can only charge for access.

Right now, there’s no pay-to-play on the internet. Companies can’t pay providers more money to make their content more accessible. No business can pay more so people see its ad first, so its website downloads faster or so shoppers see its products sooner.

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Net neutrality has led to innovation: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram were once all startups and were able to build their audiences equally without profit-seeking internet carriers controlling their content transmission.

It’s led to freedom of expression: Though Comcast owns NBC, it can’t load NBC pages more quickly or allow the network to post its articles before others.

It’s led to more commerce: Small and large businesses get to have websites without paying more for access to customers.

And now, it’s all at risk.

The Federal Communications Commission, an appointed body charged with regulating interstate communications, is set to change net neutrality rules, and allow internet providers to turn the internet into a toll road — and to set the agenda for what you see, read and purchase on the internet.

Customers would no longer be assured they are seeing everything available on a specific topic or about a specific product. Instead, the highest bidder would control the information they access.

It’s hard enough for small businesses to be heard above the noise of competing interests on the internet. But ending net neutrality means that only firms with the deepest pockets would have access to the most customers. Voters would only see ideas from those special interests with enough money to meet the carriers’ requirements — or those concepts and candidates that mesh most closely with the companies’ own views.

Almost no one is in favor of changing net neutrality rules. No one, that is, except for giant corporations providing the internet fiber optic cables and broadband access — and many of those companies have their own media outlets and other businesses that they want to promote to the exclusion of their competitors.

Without net neutrality, a Verizon customer could see different content and companies based on Verizon preferences. (Verizon owns AOL, the Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Moviefone, Weblogs Inc., 5min Media, Vidble,, Truveo, GoViral and Things Lab.)

But a Comcast customer might see totally different information. Comcast owns NBCUniversal, Universal Studios (including the theme parks), AT&T Broadband, Adelphia Communications Corp., Hulu, The Weather Channel, NBC Cable (including the USA Network, Syfy, Bravo and E!), Fandango, DreamWorks and a host of other media and video streaming organizations.

A Comcast customer would have to pay more to use Moviefone and a Verizon customer might not be able to get Hulu at all. And a new video-streaming site — the future Netflix — wouldn’t be able to get customers unless they paid a premium for it.

Internet providers aren’t discussing how this might work or the fees they would charge without net neutrality. None are saying how they would create easy access for schools or broadband for rural areas.

It’s a big decision — and it’s being made by an unelected body whose chairman used to work for Verizon. Speak out now to protect business interests on the internet.