If there is one thing that has become particularly divisive it is net neutrality. Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers should offer access to all content and applications, regardless of the source. It should also be provided without favoring specific websites or blocking products and opinions that could impact others. Net Neutrality has become a politically driven issue lately, as it may have an impact on the current net neutrality laws that apply to your business. You may have even seen the hashtag #NetNeutrality trending on your social media pages, and you need to ensure that you are as informed as possible on the potential regulations online and what they can mean for your business.
There has been a lot of confusion, but a loss of Net Neutrality can mean that you may not even be able to read blogs like this one without paying a fee to your internet service provider. This is a problem, it is censorship for some businesses, and this can damage how many people that you can comfortably reach.
What exactly is Net Neutrality?
Back in 2015, there was a regulation passed by the Federal Communications Commission that reclassified internet access as a Title II communications service. There was a strict imposition of net neutrality rules on all wireless internet providers and broadband providers, too. Today, internet service providers are waiting for the Federal Communications Commission to roll back those rules and allow more control over the internet access that they provide. This is where there is a gray area.
The Federal Communications Commission argues that doing the roll back will create more competition for wireless internet service providers and broadband providers, giving consumers more options than before. 89% of Americans only have one to two different internet service provider options right now, and one is always slower than the other. The biggest critics – Google, Facebook, Netflix, etc. – argue differently. They say that taking back net neutrality will enable internet service providers to choose to restrict a range of content from their customers entirely. They also worry that consumers will be asked to pay more to access that content, or deliberately slow down the speeds for those online products that will not pay the internet service provider with more money for faster speeds.
On July 12 there was a “Day of Action” surrounding the recent discussions about the current net neutrality legislation, and it was organized by the consumer advocacy groups who worked with websites and tech companies of all sizes. The campaign hit 10 million people and more than 3.5 million emails to Congress to ask for a discussion on the surrounding issues.
How Net Neutrality Affects Your Business
If net neutrality is reversed for your business, it all depends on your industry as to how it will affect you. No matter the size of your business, you may find that your internet service provider asks you to pay more than you did previously to get the faster speeds you need for your website. Smaller businesses may experience slower speeds, censorship with your content and additional fees. These can impact your small business more than the larger businesses out there. Your smaller budget can make paying those extra fees difficult.
Most of the smaller and medium sized businesses out there make up most of the online supporters for net neutrality, as they have less of a budget and in their numbers, smaller businesses can make more of a stand than larger companies. The bigger businesses can afford the extra costs, where the smaller businesses just cannot!
The Bottom Line
Without net neutrality, your internet service provider could be able to choose winners and losers for themselves in the marketplace. Every single internet-based business knows that the internet is supposed to offer an equal platform or service. It is a place to compete as equals, to grow with the same equal opportunities and allow the consumers to decide which businesses should be successful and which businesses will not be. By rolling back net neutrality, the platform is no longer an equal playing field. It is going to be overshadowed by the larger companies that can afford to cut deals with internet service providers to get the best speeds. Smaller businesses are lacking the funds to be able to do that and will be forced into the slower speeds. This is going to lead to business closures and net neutrality is something that can be impactful when it comes to the creation of a fair and balanced marketplace.