This Plugin Shows You What the Web Is Like Without Net Neutrality

This is the future conservative members of congress want.

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May 30 2017, 4:09pm

Image: Free Press/ Free Press Action Fund/Flickr

As conservative politicians and telecom lobbyists do everything in their power to roll back Obama-era net neutrality laws (including raising the dead), net neutrality advocates are getting creative with their responses. Case in point is the new 'Removal of Net Neutrality Simulator,' a plugin for the Google Chrome browser that gives users a taste of utter shittiness that is bandwidth throttling.

Developed by the net neutrality group Keep Our Net Free, the simulator makes your internet speed slow to a crawl and directs users who try to access Reddit and Facebook to Myspace, YouTube to Vimeo, and Google to Bing. When users try to access any of the sites they really wanted to see, they receive a pop-up saying that the "website does not function correctly on your ISP's service" and suggests using an alternative website instead.

Screengrab from 'Removal of Net Neutrality Simulator'

While this simulator isn't exactly what rolling back net neutrality would look like (anti-net neutrality laws would be unlikely to affect major online corporations like Google, Facebook or Netflix), it does do a great job of driving home how much worse the general online experience would be if conservative members of Congress and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai get their way.

Net neutrality is basically the idea that all traffic on a network should be treated the same by an Internet Service Provider (ISP)—in other words, users on a network have access to the same amount of bandwidth whether they're visiting Motherboard's website or watching porn.

But under the proposed anti-net neutrality legislation, ISPs would be able to discriminate against certain kinds of web traffic by requiring companies to pay for the privilege of greater bandwidth allocation—also known as "fast lanes"—for their online services. Furthermore, it would allow ISPs to create choke-points, which could artificially slow traffic to those sites that use the most bandwidth on a network (this would particularly affect video streaming services like YouTube or Netflix), as well as censor content that the ISP finds objectionable.

Read More: Dead People are Posting Anti-Net Neutrality Comments to the FCC Website

At this point, the future of net neutrality is uncertain. The FCC has opened its comment section for "Restoring Internet Freedom," Pai's proposed anti-net neutrality regulations. So far, the proposal has received over 2.5 million comments, although up to 500,000 of these may be fraudulent. The initial comment period will last until July 16 and a second commenting period will last until August 16. After that, it will be up to the FCC to make a decision about the future of the net.

This Net Neutrality Simulator is a strong reminder that everyone has a stake in the future of the web. I only kept the plugin for a few minutes before getting so frustrated with the browsing experience that I had to uninstall it. But uninstalling the real anti-net neutrality paradigm wouldn't be so easy—in fact, it would be nearly impossible.