The way many of us use the internet could soon change. Today, the five FCC commissioners voted 3 to 2 along party lines in favor of the proposal put forth by President Donald Trump's FCC commissioner Ajit Pai.

Under the 2015 Obama era net neutrality regulations, internet service providers (ISP’s) could not block you from visiting certain websites or charge you more if you do.

The World Wide Web is at the core of what most of us do.

"Without internet we couldn't do what we do,” said Clark Campbell, co-owner of SocialLion. SocialLion is a Chattanooga based social media marketing agency.

"We deliver messages across social media channels and we're receiving messages from people who are interacting with these brands," Campbell said.

This year, they moved to Chattanooga for better internet speeds.

"We upload and download a lot of content and we were having a lot of problems with the providers we had in Cleveland,” Campbell said.

However, a looming threat could affect the way everyone surfs the web. So what is net neutrality? And what's the concern?

"The idea that all internet traffic should be treated equally or neutrally,” said J.Ed. Marston, EPB’s Vice-President of Marketing.

For example, say you are craving a pizza, you pick up the phone, and order from a local restaurant. Now imagine if you were redirected to a chain like Dominos, because it had a special deal with them or they charged extra for calling your favorite spot. Phone companies must stay neutral, just like internet providers were under the net neutrality rules. ISP’s could not block you from watching, or charge you extra.

However, on Thursday that changed. Comcast, Verizon and even EPB can now build fast lanes and slow lanes on the internet.

"We want to keep the internet open. We want to treat all traffic equally. We think that's good for customers if we treat all traffic equally and don't charge extra. We also think it's good for businesses and innovation,” Marston said.

Streaming service such as Netflix has been a major concern for supporters of net neutrality. Some worry that ISP’s could charge premium fees for customers that use them.

However, Marston doesn’t think that will happen. Instead, he suspects streaming services will likely pay extra money to keep their products fast and accessible to keep their customers happy. The good news for EPB customers is that they have local servers for Netflix, Google, and YouTube that are based in Hamilton County. It’s why EPB isn’t concerned about streaming speeds.

"We think we're going to be able to neutralize that possibility but we're a local entity we can't control what happens in the internet at large,”

EPB is a local Chattanooga company, they have about 95,000 customers and is behind "The World's Fastest Internet." Despite the FCC’s vote, they said they haven't changed their position.

"Over the long term that's going to mean that there are fewer choices for customers, it's going to be harder for new businesses to gain entry and we think those are both negative consequences,” Marston said.

You may not notice a difference right away, but changes are likely.

"Only time is gonna tell if it's truly going to affect businesses like mine, my home use of the internet, it probably will but how much? I don't think it's going to be crazy,” Campbell said.

So how will EPB stay competitive against their competition? They said they are relying on their product and adding new promises to their customers including net neutrality.

"Our intention is to uphold that standard regardless of what the federal government allows.” Marston said.

Customer Care Pledge

  • The best possible service delivered with the utmost respect. That's always been our commitment to our customers — and it always will be.
  • Internet Privacy - We never sell your web site browsing information or online content
  • Open Internet (Net Neutrality) — Every home and business customer can send web content through EPB's network at the same fast speed without having to pay extra
  • Fair and Equal Internet — EPB doesn't play favorites when it comes to online traffic, so businesses of all sizes have a level playing field for delivering new and innovative options for customers. That's good for customers and good for creating new jobs
  • Internet without data caps or speed throttling
  • Free installation and no contracts
  • No hidden fees or surprise billing
  • Neighborly customer service, 24/7/365 to serve you

"We’re hopeful that others in the industry will on a competitive basis will arrive at the same conclusion, but speaking for ourselves that is our goal,” Marston said.
It's why Campbell isn't too worried about net neutrality being taken away.

"EPB is going to keep things consistent for us and that makes us want to stay in Chattanooga,” he said.

Net neutrality isn't quite dead yet. Supporters could take the FCC to court to keep the regulations.

More than 50 mayors including Chattanooga’s wrote a letter to the FCC, urging them to keep net neutrality protections.
Mayor Andy Berke and the other leader wrote in the letter why they are against de-regulation where they said, "As leaders of local communities we are acutely aware of the threat to education, innovation, and economic growth posed by the proposal." 

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