By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – The days of equal access to the internet may be over.

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The FCC is expected to lift its net neutrality mandate in three weeks, giving internet service providers full control over what you see and don’t see on the web. It would be able to weaken signals or block websites it doesn’t like or that can’t pay-to-play.

Net neutrality essentially ensures that internet service providers like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon treat all websites and content equally. But, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai — Verizon’s former attorney — insists it’s depressed investment. He says, “under my proposal, the government would stop micromanaging the internet.

“Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices.”

In other words, they can police themselves.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (credit: CBS)

“If that doesn’t scare people, I don’t know what does,” says Melissa Popp — director of digital engagement at Altitude — a search engine optimization company.

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She says providers like Comcast’s Xfinity which owns NBC could create fast lanes for their content and charge websites and internet users for access. Those who can’t pay would be relegated to slow lanes where content would be limited and because most of us have one broadband provider to choose from. It’ll be “take it or leave it.” Start-ups she says will likely be shut out.

“If they can block a website like Amazon, they can block any small mom and pop business. They can block any new restaurant trying to make name for itself in a city. They can block even something as simple as a news website because they disagree with their stance on a particular issue.”

Rep. Diana DeGette, who sits on the committee that oversees telecommunications, says she will co-sponsor legislation to override the FCC, “If you don’t regulate them then what will happen is they will do what’s in their financial best interest. They’re corporations.”

DeGette says she has never gotten so many complaint calls on one issue, “If my Republican colleagues thought that the Affordable Care Act repeal was upsetting to their constituents just wait until constituents get going on this.”

Representative Diana DeGette speaks to CBS4’s Shaun Boyd. (credit: CBS)

President Donald Trump is pushing for the net neutrality repeal. The FCC is taking comment through Monday and will make a decision in three weeks. The only thing that could stop the repeal is a court injunction. Several groups have threatened lawsuits.

Comcast’s Senior Executive Vice President David Cohen released a statement saying, “Independent of any FCC action, Comcast’s commitment to our customers remains the same: we do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content – and we will be transparent with our customers about these policies. As we have said previously, this proposal is not the end of net neutrality rules.  With the FCC transparency requirement and the restoration of the FTC‘s role in overseeing information services, the agencies together will have the authority to take action against any (internet service provider) which does not make its open Internet practices clearly known to consumers, and if needed enforce against any anti-competitive or deceptive practices.  Comcast has already made net neutrality promises to our customers, and we will continue to follow those standards, regardless of the regulations in place.”

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Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.