You may have been surprised to see the topic of net neutrality making a comeback in recent days. This is largely due to two people, Donald Trump and John Oliver, and you should not be surprised that the two men disagree on this topic.

Before we get into that, though, let's back up a bit. First, what exactly is net neutrality? A simple explanation can be found on good ol' Wikipedia:

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments regulating the Internet should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.

That's all net neutrality does: it ensures that everyone plays by the same rules and pays the same prices for the same things. (And for the record, Wikipedia strongly supports net neutrality -- in America. Worldwide it's a different, more complicated story.)

In 2014, the Obama administration's FCC director, Mike Wheeler, issued rules to support net neutrality, which ISPs -- particularly Verizon -- fought in court. But the new regulations went into effect and had been working just fine.

Until Donald Trump was elected president, that is. His new FCC director, Ajit Pai, is a former Verizon lawyer who has argued publicly against net neutrality, claiming that it actually prevents internet freedom and slows down innovation and infrastructure construction -- all of which he is spectacularly wrong about, if you ask John Oliver. (Watch him explain above: he manages to make a lot of the tedious legalese quite funny. Well done, sir.)

This isn't exactly a shock, of course. Pai was literally paid a salary to promote and protect Verizon's interests, and Verizon's interests are making money for Verizon, not a free and fair internet. Now he leads the government agency charged with regulating the very company he used to work for. Guess whose side he's taking? (Not yours.)

What Ajit Pai, Donald Trump and Republican senators like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson say they want is, as their op-ed's headline reads, to "get government out of the internet's business." They claim they want to free these poor internet service providers who are being choked into oblivion by overwhelming federal regulation.

That all sounds great, yay freedom, et cetera. But it's not freedom for you, consumer of content on the internet. It's freedom for companies like Verizon to make more money -- and you'll be the one providing that extra cash.

Here's how it'll work:

  • Once it is able to charge different companies different rates, Verizon will jack up what it charges, say, Netflix to provide you with episodes of Orange Is the New Black.
  • To pay for that, Netflix will, in turn, raise the rates it charges you, the customer who wants to watch OITNB.
  • You will then have to choose whether to pay higher monthly fees to watch OITNB or to cancel your Netflix account -- but either way, Verizon makes more money.

So when someone tells you getting rid of net neutrality is about greater freedom, know that he means he wants ISPs to be free to make more money off of you.

To stop this from going into effect, you need to let the FCC know how you feel. To do that, Oliver has helpfully created a shortcut to get past all the needlessly complicated new steps recently added by the FCC to make commenting much more difficult. Go to gofccyourself.com, which will redirect you to a page on the FCC's website. There, click the "Express" link (which we've circled below), and leave a comment.

FCC

And do be polite. Your freedom to watch Orange Is the New Black is at stake.

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