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The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to implement new net neutrality rules. The conversation has been going on for years, but the FCC’s landmark ruling means Internet service providers (ISPs) will treat all legal content and web traffic equally.

“The Internet is too important to allow broadband providers to make the rules,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler before the FCC panel on Thursday. “So today after a decade of debate in an open, robust year-long process, we finally have legally sustainable rules to ensure that the Internet stays fast, fair and open.”

The term net neutrality (open Internet) “is a principle that Internet networks are equally available to all types of legal content generators,” defines USA Today. Net neutrality has been championed by smaller entities, technology companies and consumer groups because it ensures they have as much of an opportunity to be heard as larger companies such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. The larger conglomerates that oppose the decision argue that services like Amazon and Netflix should pay for the “disproportionately high bandwidth” they use.

According to data, during peak hours in North America, popular on-demand Internet streaming service Netflix accounts for more than one third of downstream (the data received, not sent) Internet traffic.

What will it mean for you?

Internet service via your provider (think: Time Warner Cable, Comcast and the like) will go as planned. But the government will categorize service differently. It’s now considered a public entity and prevents providers from charging more for services like Netflix. You may have noticed in the past that access to content has been slow. Now, whether you stream a video from NBC or a blog site, it’ll hit your device just the same.

The decision also means that there won’t be gatekeepers controlling content. Had the net neutrality protection not passed, Amazon could, in theory, outbid Netflix or Hulu for premium delivery of your Internet provider. This would trump competitors and give Netflix or Hulu a competitive advantage in the marketplace because each company would be able to pay for it.

Net neutrality proponents are ecstatic about the FCC’s new decision. However, the fight may not be over. Republicans are looking into the decision, and lawsuits are expected.

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