As the Federal Communications Commission prepares to vote on ending Internet neutrality, Internet service providers will become gatekeepers with the power to block or slow online content—or to offer preferred services to certain websites, according to a West Virginia University expert. ISPs may not take advantage of their new-found power quickly, but the development of tiered Internet plans, meaning websites would have to pay more for better service, could be on the horizon, she said.

Elizabeth Cohen Assistant Professor Communication Studies Eberly College of Arts and Sciences:

“Opponents of net neutrality argue that permitting ISPs to prioritize bandwidth will encourage large telecommunications companies to make more investments in Internet infrastructure, because they have more money. But even if this is true, I am concerned that this will come at the cost of fair and healthy competition and innovation among tech companies. Heavy hitters like Google and Netflix will probably fair relatively okay without net neutrality, but smaller companies and start-ups won't have an equal playing field to compete and get in the game anymore."