The current debate on Capitol Hill around net neutrality protections will have far reaching consequences for all internet users. Yet this topic has received little coverage from traditional new outlets because those special interests stand to benefit from the regulations being repealed. Current FCC regulations call for internet service providers (Comcast, Verizon, etc.) to provide equal internet access to all without favoring or blocking sites. For now, the internet is treated as a public utility with all customers receiving equal access. The proposed changes by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would allow the internet service providers (ISPs) to police themselves. Experts believe this would lead to preferential access speeds to large corporations who can afford to pay more and limiting the functionality of small businesses online activities.
How Did We Get Here?
In 2015, the FCC voted to enact “Title II Regulation” which protects against internet service providers implementing paid fast lanes, app blocking and bandwidth throttling. This regulation intended to prevent internet providers from giving preferential treatment to large corporations who can afford to pay more to optimize their websites to outperform smaller competitors. Title II Regulation stopped AT&T’s plan to start charging additional fees to use the iPhone’s FaceTime App due to high bandwidth consumption. This is a foreshadowing of what internet users can expect if net neutrality protections are removed. Fees for service would begin to surface in various areas of the internet such as music, video and live streaming services. Basically, any service that requires higher broadband use or competes with the packages offered by the major ISP’s would be subject to additional fees or at risk to be blocked entirely. History shows when major corporations are policing themselves, the public at large is in danger of being exploited.
How Will This Affect Your Business?
If you offer a product or service that competes with a larger corporation, be prepared to be priced out of the digital space you operate in. For example, a business which sells everyday products online will be categorized in the same class as Amazon.com and could be asked to pay additional fees for their page to load at the same speed as Amazon. Since the ISP will have complete control to set prices, it is a safe bet these fees will be a significant burden for companies who are already struggling to compete with major corporations online.
Companies who look to innovate in the online marketplace can currently do so without asking for permission. Without net neutrality, innovative online advances that require additional bandwidth will be stifled by additional fees for service. The next social media platform that could revolutionize the industry may never take off if it is met with opposition by the corporations who control the internet.
In 2008, the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee laid out plans to build a high-speed municipal fiber network for its residents. They were promptly sued by Comcast who later revealed their own plans to build a 2-gigabit broadband service in Chattanooga. This blatant example of privileged treatment for vertically integrated brands owned by the large corporations showcases the importance of net neutrality. The ability to create a disruptive and innovative solution online should not be contingent on whether it competes with an ISP’s broader interests.
What is the Counter Argument to Net Neutrality?
The core argument against net neutrality is that these corporations should have the freedom to compete against one another. However, the reality is that ISPs shy away from competition in favor of monopolizing specific markets. Comcast recently tried to buy out Time Warner Cable since TWC dominates certain markets that Comcast is interested in taking over. Rather than competing with Time Warner Cable, Comcast avoids these markets because they would be forced to set competitive prices. These large corporations simply cannot be trusted to provide fair and open access to the internet without preferential treatment.
Protect Your Business
The battle for the freedom of internet access is on-going and likely will not be over anytime soon. Politicians are currently debating the removal of regulations protecting the public from large internet service providers special interests. At Digital Resource, an internet marketing agency, we are staying informed with current internet trends to provide our clients with the best representation online possible. Whether net neutrality remains in force or the system is overhauled, we will help our clients remain relevant online and competitive in their respective markets. Contact us today to discuss how to compete online in an ever-changing digital landscape!
“Taylor Stobie is a graduate of Palm Beach Atlantic University’s Rinker School of Business where he studied Marketing with an emphasis in internet advertising. Taylor brings experience with digital advertising campaigns for large healthcare organizations. His main focus is driving our clients success by maintaining best practices online.”