As it currently stands in the US, net neutrality rules exist to ensure a level playing field on the internet, and the FCC is able to enforce them by classifying broadband service as a utility. That is likely to change under the current administration, and if you're wondering what the web could look like without rules in place to prevent ISPs from doing whatever they want, just look at Portugal.
Net neutrality rules are not regulated in Portugal in the same manner as the US, and at least one ISP is having a field day with that. The website for MEO (opens in new tab), a Lisbon-based telecommunications firm, lists data package add-ons that are broken down into several categories, such as social, messaging, video, and so forth.
Here's how it works. Customers pay the carrier for a mobile package with a set amount of data, and then have the option of paying extra for unlimited access to certain apps and services. For example, customers who spend a lot of time on Facebook and using Snapchat can pay an additional €5 per month for the social tier. If they also watch a lot of videos, such as Netflix, or streaming content on Twitch, that's another €5 for the video tier. Email gets its own paid tier, and so does both music and messaging.
In Portugal, with no net neutrality, internet providers are starting to split the net into packages. pic.twitter.com/TlLYGezmv6October 27, 2017
There is a thread about this on Reddit (opens in new tab) with comments suggesting MEO is one of the worst offenders in this regard, but not the only one.
"Our cable internet is pretty good, like someone said it exceeds 100mbps in general, but our mobile internet has been plagued by these kind of plans for some time now. This is definitely the worst though, never seen anything like this," a Reddit user said.
And apparently this sort of thing can be found in Greece (opens in new tab) as well. Granted, wireless carriers and ISPs in the US were not this bold prior to the FCC enacting net neutrality rules, and we don't expect that to change once the rules are inevitably reversed. However, it does serve as a cautionary tale, and underscores why net neutrality is such an important topic.