Demonstrators, supporting net neutrality, protest a plan by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to repeal restrictions on internet service providers during a protest outside a Verizon store on December 7, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.

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Demonstrators, supporting net neutrality, protest a plan by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to repeal restrictions on internet service providers during a protest outside a Verizon store on December 7, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.

Crushing that competition, she said, opens the door for fewer companies with more control to charge higher prices. “It essentially amounts to a tax on the entire economy.”

Public opinion, while still largely in favor of the regulations, has narrowed in recent months. Net neutrality enjoyed strong bipartisan public support in June, but recent polling shows just a slim majority of U.S. voters still favor the rules, according to data from Morning Consult and Politico.

The apparent public support for net neutrality, opponents say, is largely a matter of successful branding.

“This is the brilliance of marketing,” said Roslyn Layton, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “The political left tends to win on net neutrality because the framing is better,” she said.

Layton blames what she considers onerous FCC regulations, not the free market, for creating a costly and unequal internet for consumers.

In a July report on the consumer impact of the rules, Layton and AEI argued that “the Open Internet rules against blocking and throttling, although seemingly consumer-centric, are powerful price controls and legal tools to compel broadband providers to deliver traffic regardless of the marginal cost to networks and frequently at zero price.”

It’s not just the additional costs: A Phoenix Center study concluded that the threat of reclassifying broadband internet service under the FCC’s purview may have reduced investment from the telecommunications sector between $30 billion and $40 billion annually from 2011 to 2015.

Net neutrality supporters, however, aren’t buying it. “I think that’s totally bogus,” Greer said. “If you want to talk about fees getting passed onto consumers, that’s what is going to happen if paid prioritization is allowed.”

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com.

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