How the End of Net Neutrality Could Affect Your PracticeWhen you open your internet browser, you expect to access any website or online service you want, at any time you want, within a reasonable amount of time, right? Of course! After all, you pay to access the internet, and it is the expectation that when you pay for a service, you are able to access that whole service. But, could that be coming to an end? On December 14th, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal the “Net Neutrality” rules set in place to protect internet consumers from Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Since then, there has been quite a buzz about how this will affect businesses (large and small) and the digital market. Net Neutrality is a complicated and sometimes vitriolic subject, but as users of the internet and a company whose business relies on the internet, it is our job to understand the information and present it to you. If you own a business and you market that business on the internet, you need to understand the implications of Net Neutrality. This is a long one, but stick with us because it’s important. Let’s dive into the basics of Net Neutrality, and how the end of it could affect your business and ours.
WHAT IS NET NEUTRALITY?Explanations of Net Neutrality can get convoluted, but the bottom line is this: Net Neutrality rules were designed to make sure that anyone paying for access to the internet would be able to access any internet service or website they desire. The basic principle of Net Neutrality is that all websites and internet services should be equal and open, as long as one has access to an internet connection. All websites load at the same speed, and there are no extra fees for accessing certain websites or internet services. Net Neutrality rules were set in place to keep Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from nickel-and-diming your internet access. It also meant that anyone would be able to create a website or web service and it would be treated equally to more established websites in the eyes of your ISP. This meant that no companies could pay ISPs for preferential treatment.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN WITHOUT NET NEUTRALITY?The answer is: we can’t be completely sure. There is no way to predict how ISPs will react to the repeal of Net Neutrality rules. However, given that we know what Net Neutrality protects us against, we can come to a few possible conclusions. The first possibility is that the ISPs do nothing. In a perfect world, large internet service companies like Comcast and AT&T would honor the principles that allow people to access the internet freely and openly. But given the long and complicated timeline of Net Neutrality, we have to prepare for the eventuality that this is not the case. The second possibility is that the internet as we know it changes quite a bit. ISPs would no longer be required to provide unlimited and unfettered access to the internet. Without the principle of Net Neutrality, your ISP is open to:
- Charge extra fees to access certain websites and services like Facebook, Netflix, Twitter, etc. For example, you may have to pay for base internet service, and then “upgrade” your services to see your favorite websites.
- Establish a “fast lane” and “slow lane” for the speed of websites. Bigger, more lucrative companies can pay ISPs to speed up their site, while smaller companies may experience significantly slower websites. This would seriously affect web traffic, lead generation, etc.
- Block users from seeing certain websites. For example, if you are paying for Comcast’s internet services, they could block AT&T’s website because they are a competitor. There are endless scenarios in which this could pose a problem for online businesses.