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What would it mean for Arizonans if ‘net neutrality’ rules are repealed?

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PHOENIX — Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai announced a plan Tuesday to repeal rules around “net neutrality,” which were regulations enacted under the Obama administration.

“Net neutrality means the internet service provider cannot favor any specific content,” said Ken Colburn, with Scottsdale-based Data Doctors.

Currently, internet service providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon have to treat all web content, from Facebook to YouTube, start up apps to personal websites, equally.

“[In] today’s internet, no particular type of content gets priority over anyone else,” Colburn said.

Similar to the way the government regulates utility companies, the rules force internet providers to give equal access to all online content and apps.

“Right now, its wide open, and anybody can do anything with that content and have an equal shot at getting an audience,” Colburn said.

But if the regulations are repealed, internet service providers could choose to slow down or restrict certain content  at their discretion.

“That puts the [providers] in a position to pick the winners and losers because they’re going to do special deals with people that are willing to pay,” Colburn said.

That could have several ramifications, including the internet service provider’s ability to charge both content providers and consumers for internet access.

“The fear is that puts large companies with lots of money to spend in the driver seat,” Colburn said.

That could also mean small companies that are trying to break into the industry would be at a disadvantage, he added.

Another potential effect of repealing net neutrality is that internet service providers could slow down the speed of one streaming service, while boosting the speed of a streaming service that they own or have a financial interest in.

There is not a clear indication of what will happen if the regulations are repealed the way Pai, who used to work for Verizon, would like.

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