Thanks for watching that YouTube video! That will be 50 cents, please.

Sound unrealistic? It’s actually fairly likely, thanks to a ruling handed down Tuesday by the FCC that will allow Internet service providers to charge customers based on the amount of bandwidth they use. And some argue that it’s the greatest threat to freedom we face today. 

Welcome to the complex world of net neutrality.

The basic problem is simple: As online video has grown in popularity, thanks to sites like YouTube and Hulu.com, Internet service providers (ISPs) complain that each consumer is more of a burden to service — that’s you, me and your next-door neighbor, Phil.

Today, Comcast, Time Warner, or whomever you pay monthly charges you and Phil more or less the same amount. But Phil watches four hours of basketball online every night. Should he pay more for that? There’s the neutrality part, the argument that you should pay one fee for access to the entire Internet, regardless of what type of content you watch or which sites you visit.

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