Imagine the internet as a highway. The actual “highway” part of the highway system is maintain by what are called Tier 1 providers. These are the companies that maintain the giant cables that cross oceans and provide the backbone of the internet. You as a consumer probably don’t deal with these providers very much. Instead, you deal with companies like Comcast or Time-Warner. In this analogy of an information superhighway, Comcast owns the on and off-ramps to your house. They connect the Tier 1 to your computer. Companies like Netflix, Ebay, or Amazon also have onramps and offramps, but depending on the volume they work with, these companies will either work directly with the Tier 1 providers or with other business facing internet providers to maintain their connections to the information superhighway.
When you click on a movie in Netflix, they send a “truck” from their onramp, down the highway, and it exits at your offramp and you watch a movie.
What Comcast is doing is saying “Hey, there’s a lot of these Netflix trucks coming down our offramps, let’s charge a toll to these trucks to make more money; or better yet, let’s just deny Netflix trucks from using our offramp so that our customers have to use our streaming services instead!”
Now sure, this wouldn’t be a problem if you had 3 or 4 different offramps to your house. You could easily say to Comcast, “Screw you guys, I’m going to use this other offramp where they aren’t blocking my Netflix truck from getting to me.” But the problem is that 2 out every every 3 Americans live in a place where there is only one choice of offramp. (In the unlikely event that someone from the FCC is reading this, that is what is called a monopoly. I know, it’s a word that you’ve been trained by your telecom lobbyists never to use.)
What the new FCC plan wants to do is allow Comcast to have two offramps, a tollway for fast traffic and another one for regular traffic. Essentially letting established companies with the financial backing to get a leg up over any competition that might not have the money to pay for a fast lane. It changes the dynamic from companies trying to provide better and more useful products to consumers into a dynamic of bribing the cable companies enough to ensure your content gets there faster.