No internet
Countries with lax net neutrality rules have a different internet from what we are used to in America. RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) aims next month to repeal net neutrality rules that were introduced by the Obama administration. The existing rules disallow broadband providers from discriminating against content providers (as long as they are lawful players and the content itself is lawful). However, if the FCC has its way, that won’t be the case anymore.

The implication of such a move by the FCC on the internet has been intensely speculated over these past few weeks.

However, to get a clearer picture of what the absence of net neutrality would mean for the internet in America, maybe a good place to look would be at countries where net neutrality laws are already lax.

For instance, a look at an internet package deal from the Portuguese mobile carrier, Meo, shows a scenario in which the internet services are bundled into different service categories. The plan from Meo, called "Smart Net" offers customers monthly subscription options under titles like Video, Messaging and Social. All the five categories they offer feature popular apps like Spotify, Google Drive, Netflix and Facetime.

Though on the face of it, this may look similar to getting cable channels over the internet, it’s a little different. Here the services on offer are extra to the general purpose mobile subscriptions, using which you could access any service including the ones that were mentioned above. For instance, if you are a heavy user of apps like Facebook or Snapchat you should pay about $8 a month to get even more "Social" data.

Meanwhile, you would use the data allotment from the regular subscription for everything else.

China is another country where net neutrality is a moot point, though in that country the content filtering is government-led and not corporate-led. The Chinese government is extremely intolerant of criticisms against the government, and any content that they find offensive gets censored from the internet.

In other words, the definition of "lawful" content is rather flimsy in China, to say the least.

Though America has a different political system from China, if net neutrality is rolled back in the U.S., curbing rightfully dissenting voices on the internet — especially if they come from marginalized/poorer individuals —may become easier for the government.

In New Zealand, while there is no authoritarian government like in China, in terms of its internet use, they allow service providers to offer what’s called "differential pricing."

For example, the telecommunication brand, Vodafone, offers customers a social pass for websites including Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. With the pass, the customer would have a monthly cap on the data he could use for these websites. As of now, for $8.72 per month, a customer can buy unlimited access from the company.

If the customer is someone who uses a specific service to gather information to improve their station in life (say, a student who accesses video lessons provided by a Facebook page) and if that person happens to be economically underprivileged, having them pay extra for access of the material would be socially counter-productive.

Whether such a scenario would play out in America or not, we could only speculate now. But one thing is for sure — the way you use the internet would be drastically different without net neutrality.