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Why should I care about net neutrality?

Jessica Rosenworcel, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, defends the endangered regulatory policy on the latest Too Embarrassed to Ask.

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Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Ajit Pai To Remain Head Of FCC Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Repealing net neutrality, a movement led by Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai and expected to pass on Dec. 14, gets people really worked up online: Millions wrote in to the FCC between April and August this year, although the exact number is in question.

So, why do people care so much about how the internet is regulated? And what would happen if the net neutrality rules on the chopping block — the ones implemented in 2015 by a Democratic-led FCC under President Obama — went away?

“Should this actually come to pass, I think we will find ourselves soon looking at litigation,” said FCC member Jessica Rosenworcel on the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask.

“I suspect that we’ll have lawyers around this country running to federal appellate courts to try to see if they can overturn these policies and even get a temporary injunction or stay before they go into effect,” she added. “It’s hard to predict with any kind of certainty what will happen, but I am convinced there will be litigation should this go forward.”

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Speaking with Kara Swisher and Lauren Goode, Rosenworcel — one of the two Democrats on the five-person commission, and an opponent of the repeal — said neutrality rules prevent internet service providers from blocking websites or slowing access to some sites to make others more appealing.

That fairness, she argued, is why the internet economy has grown so much since the first net neutrality rules were put in place under President George W. Bush in the mid-2000s.

“These were not policies that had a Democratic or a Republican tint to them,” Rosenworcel said. “They were just based on this idea that the internet should be open and you can go where you want and do what you want.”

On the new podcast, Rosenworcel rebutted Pai’s claim that consumers will still be treated fairly by their ISPs when they are required only to be transparent about how they “manage” web traffic.

“We all like transparency, so let’s be clear: I think transparency’s a good thing,” she said. “Transparency, in this case, means your broadband provider tells [consumers] about their traffic management practices. Theoretically, that’s a good thing. You put that out there and you’re told how your traffic is being treated.”

The issue, she went on to say, is that consumers will have no clear recourse if they don’t like what they get. A large number of them have only one choice of broadband internet provider.

“Ideally, in a competitive market, you pick up your service and you go elsewhere,” Rosenworcel said. “The great challenge for net neutrality right now is that, according to FCC data, more than half the households in this country don’t have a choice of broadband provider. Transparency only serves you well if your market is fully competitive.”

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