This year, more than any in recent memory, we awoke to the realities of the problems and promise inherent in what has become our hyper-connected, 21st century lives. Nearly every major technology story of the year -- from the Net Neutrality debate to major hackings -- impacted how we view the Internet, how increasingly important it is to everyone, and how it will evolve in the future.

Net Neutrality's Shaky Future

The year started off with a bang, when a U.S. district court of appeals decided in favor of Verizon and against the Federal Communications Commission, essentially stripping the FCC of its authority to regulate Internet Service Providers under its old framework. Thus began the long, and continuing, debate over Net Neutrality, consumer rights, ISP monopolies, and the future of U.S. Internet policy. (Bulleted headlines are also links to the individual articles.)

Media Mergers -- Proposed, Failed, and Postponed

To spice things up even more, several major media mergers were proposed -- in fact, two could be possibly the largest media mergers in history, completely changing the balance of power between consumers, cable companies, media properties, and possibly any business that relies on the Internet to reach its audience. All of the major proposed mergers met with varying (but overall low) degrees of success -- at least, so far.

TV's Future Is On the Internet

Finally, the at intersection of FCC policy, ISPs, media companies, rapidly evolving technologies -- and a Supreme Court decision, to boot -- was the continuing upheaval of traditional television by streaming media on the Internet.

Security, Surveillance, and Privacy in the 21st Century

In 2013, we learned the bulk of revelations about the National Security Agency's Internet surveillance programs, after the top secret details, leaked by Edward Snowden, became public.

This year, more revelations appeared while some privacy-related changes came to NSA policy. Meanwhile, more changes occurred within the data-security industry, and a series of major high profile hackings revealed that even more security measures will need to be implemented, or invented, as the Internet insinuates itself further into our private lives.

Did we miss a major story thread from 2014 that might impact the future of the Internet in the U.S.? Leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!