How does net neutrality affect you — and how might the lack of it?
First, let's take a look at what exactly net neutrality is. It's pretty simple — basically, net neutrality says that ISPs will allow users to access all content, systems, or applications equally, regardless of the source. When followed, this principle guarantees an open internet in which networks are not throttled, controlled, or otherwise managed based on specific content. If you want to watch Netflix, you can. Listen to Apple music? No problem. Amazon prime member? Go watch some movies — it's cool.
ISPs, for the most part, hate this. It effectively, legally, corners them into being the guardians of a big, fat, dumb pipe. While companies on both ends of the pipe are innovating, building new products, and becoming more profitable, ISPs are stuck in a low-margin commodified business racing to the bottom. This is why they've been working so hard to block and roll back any kind of net neutrality legislation.
So, is net neutrality good for consumers? Maybe. The lack of it is certainly bad for content providers, who ISPs will begin to charge to enhance bandwidth and delivery guarantees. It's bad for small ISPs, who likely won't be able to offer similarly enhanced bandwidth options. After all, Comcast can charge someone like Amazon a single fee for enhanced delivery to a pretty big number of consumers. A small ISP? I doubt they'd even be able to get a hold of anybody at Amazon to discuss enhanced offerings — and even if they did, I doubt anybody at Amazon would even care. How many customers does a small ISP have, after all?
Consumers will certainly be charged more by content providers, though. Providers will need to continuously one-up the competition with respect to performance, creating an unusual race-to-the-top while lining the pockets of large ISPs.
How will this scale to small companies and startups? Today, if I create a company selling widget X, competing with an established corporation, I know that I will be able to provide similar levels of service for internet products. In the future? It's hard to say. Will I be able to afford the same tier of internet service as my competition? Will it even be made available to me? There's no guarantee it will, especially if my competition is partially owned by an ISP (and that's not that unlikely). Large ISPs are large, diversified companies, after all.
So, who wins with net neutrality regulations struck down? Large ISPs, certainly. Who loses? Well, it's tough to say — but things don't really look good for anybody else.