This week, our country took a step backwards with the Trump administration rolling back net neutrality rules and allowing internet service providers to charge us more for access, or faster access, to certain websites or content. In other words, using the internet is about to become like cable TV: we’ll pay one rate for some basic level of internet access, but have to pay a higher rate for faster speed or more “premium” kinds of websites.

Astonishingly, despite the fact that nearly 80 percent of all Americans support net neutrality, Congress and the Trump administration refuse to put our interests over fattening the internet providers’ bottom line. Many states, including New Jersey, have sprung into action to preserve net neutrality for our residents and filed a legal challenge to the federal government’s attempt to keep us from having a free and open internet.

But it’s not that simple. In its order earlier this week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman, Ajit Pai, not only repealed net neutrality rules, but decreed that any state’s attempt to preserve net neutrality to protect their residents and businesses is preempted — that is, that only the federal government, and not the states, have authority to require net neutrality.

We all — individuals, families, businesses, schools, towns, state agencies, first responders, everyone — rely on the internet for almost every aspect of our lives and livelihoods. We pay a significant monthly fee to use the internet. Until this week, we were paying for unfettered access.

While many of us won’t feel the effects of the net neutrality repeal at first, all of us will be harmed by the repeal of net neutrality over time, and our internet fees for the same access will almost certainly increase.

We will continue to work hard here in New Jersey to ensure that internet providers doing business in our state will abide by net neutrality rules. We must and will do all we can to prevent the internet from being divided into classes, one for the haves and another, slower and lesser one for the have-nots.

— Andrew Zwicker

Zwicker, a Democratic assemblyman representing Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, and Hunterdon counties, chairs the Assembly Science, Innovation, and Technology Committee. He also holds a PhD in physics from Johns Hopkins University and is the head of science education at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

The FCC first adopted policies that established net neutrality in 2005, under Republican leadership. In February the FCC announced its intention to repeal those rules, and the repeal took effect when Congress did not act to stop it.

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