by Kelly Lucas, client marketing director
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, in recent months you’ve heard the term “net neutrality” thrown around. And like most technically oriented phrases, it doesn’t sound like anything too interesting, so you glaze over the subject and move on to something more pressing like videos and images of kittens being soooooo adorable!
However, it is important that you understand what net neutrality is and how it can affect you. When you boil it down, net neutrality means that all data is equally accessible via the Internet. This means that regardless of whether you are a small accounting firm or one of the big name international firms, you have equal access to placing information and accessing other information via the web.
That’s what makes the Internet so great – everyone has an equal chance of getting found by potential clients as long as you create quality content. This is how smaller businesses are able to compete with much larger businesses. Yes, you must also factor in things like advertising and marketing budgets to get the word out, but in terms of accessibility, you’re on a level playing field with the big dogs. If net neutrality goes out the window, so does that equal accessibility. Some things to consider:
Paying More For Better Access No net neutrality means that Internet service providers (ISPs) will be able to create tiers of accessibility, meaning they can start demanding more money for better accessibility. Smaller businesses with tiny budgets won’t be able to compete for access with the larger companies who can afford to pay the new fees. It also means that there’s nothing to stop big companies or competitors from paying ISPs to slow access to other sites, thus effectively putting them out of business.
Limited Access to Content ISPs will be able to limit what you have access to based on their own corporate interests. From Business Insider: “For example, Comcast would probably like to promote NBC’s content over ABC’s to its Internet subscribers. That’s because Comcast and NBC are affiliated. But net neutrality prevents Comcast from being able to discriminate, and it must display both NBC’s and ABC’s content evenly as a result. That means no slower load time for ABC, and definitely no blocking of ABC altogether.” If net neutrality is gone, there’s nothing to prevent corporate discrimination like this, meaning your window shopping for vendors may be limited to just those on Rodeo Drive. Your favorite information sources may not be as fully available to you as they are now.
Limited Access For Potential Clients While the previous example explained how you would be limited in what you could access (potentially increasing costs for your business as your options dwindle), it works the other way as well. Prospects will now have a harder time finding you as well. Entrepreneur likens this to when you buy cable TV: “Instead of being able to sell to anyone with an internet connection…entrepreneurs would find their customers limited to those who paid for the ‘internet package’ that covers access to their particular website. It would be like your cable TV plan: The more you pay, the more channels you receive.” In essence, your clients may only be directed to window shop Rodeo Drive and not realize there are more efficient and equally effective options like you out there.
Slower Load Times So let’s say ISPs don’t altogether block access to those sites that aren’t part of their approved network. That doesn’t mean they won’t try to incentivize you to visit their preferred sites. They can do this by interrupting streaming or slowing load times on websites that don’t pay a premium. The speed and reliability of a site can make or break you. Admit it, you’ve just decided to leave a page when when it took more than a couple of seconds to load. That impatience is universal and could affect traffic on your website. And if you wanted to engage in video marketing and stream on your website, you might be up the creek without a paddle (slowly, very slowly drifting).
Of course, all of this is just conjecture. We don’t know for certain that all or any of this will take place if the FCC decides to restructure net neutrality. I mean, those huge corporate giants could totally decide not to use that to their advantage to make tons and tons of money at the expense of others. Right? Could happen that way, maybe not…
As a final thought, I’d like to leave you with what is possibly the best and most entertaining explanation of net neutrality and its effects making the rounds, via John Oliver on his show Last Week Tonight. I highly recommend you take the few minutes and watch the whole piece. Please note that there is some colorful language, though the worst is bleeped out.
Are you concerned about net neutrality? Have another take on its effects? We’d love your insight into this very hot topic.