On Jan. 14, 2014, a federal court of appeals struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order, which was designed to prevent Internet service providers from blocking or slowing users’ connections to online content. The court did not comment on the validity of these rules but simply said that the FCC had used the wrong legal foundation to justify them.

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In response, on May 15 FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler released flawed Internet rules that would let ISPs charge content companies for priority treatment — relegating all other content to a slower tier of service.

Wheeler’s plan would let telecom giants like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon pick winners and losers online and discriminate against online content and applications. And it would destroy the open Internet.

Without Net Neutrality, ISPs would be able to devise new schemes to charge users more for access and services, making it harder for us to communicate online — and easier for companies to censor our speech. The Internet could come to resemble cable TV, where gatekeepers exert control over where you go and what you see.

Without Net Neutrality, ISPs would be able to block content and speech they don’t like, reject apps that compete with their own offerings, and prioritize Web traffic (reserving the fastest loading speeds for the highest bidders and sticking everyone else with the slowest).

The tools ISPs use to block and control our communications aren’t different from the ones the NSA uses to watch us. Whether it’s a government or a corporation wielding these tools or the two working together, this behavior breaks the Internet as we know it and makes it less open and secure.

We must fight to ensure the Internet we love doesn’t become a platform for corporate speech or another tool for government spying. We must protect the Internet that lets us connect and create, that rejects censorship and values our right to privacy.

The Internet should remain a forum for innovation and free expression. Open, affordable, fast and universal communications networks are essential to our individual, economic and political futures.

For our 101 on Net Neutrality, click here.

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