Net Neutrality Dies: What to expect for your small business expenses

On June 11th, 2018, approximately three years after it was enacted, Net Neutrality died.

The original idea behind the FCC’s Open Internet Order was that Internet content should be treated equally and be accessible to all. The Order placed certain restrictions on how Internet Service Providers (ISPs) could charge for Internet access and accessibility.

There were three rules in particular, which were repealed in December because, as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai argued, they deter innovation and impair investment into the growth of broadband networks.

  1. Blocking – ISPs could not block any content as long as it was lawful. Now they can choose to block content.
  2. Throttling – ISP’s could not slow the data stream for any lawful content. Now they can slow, or “throttle” speeds for websites.
  3. Paid Prioritization – ISP’s could not create a ‘fast lane’ for companies or consumers who paid a premium. Now they can request higher prices for speedier access.

ISPs say this is a big win for the consumer, and inarguably it is a big win for ISPs. But what about the majority of small and mid-sized business? What can you expect?

Your business could face new challenges

Small businesses, freelancers, and other independent business owners are concerned they won’t be able to deliver their products and services at the speeds their customers expect. How can they compete against the dominant players in the industry, and will the cost of being competitive push them out of digital marketing?

Without these rules in place, ISPs could skew the Internet to favor a list of preferred partners. For instance, it might decide that your web host should pay more to deliver your content to consumers or it would slow the load time of your site.

Many Internet Giants, such as Google, Spotify, Snap, and Netflix are also concerned that the repeal could lead to anti-competitive practices, which could hurt their businesses.

Double Click by Google states that visitors who have to wait more than three seconds for a mobile site to load will abandon their search fifty three percent of the time! Speed matters, and ISPs now have the right to charge for it, reduce it, or even block content altogether.

The reality is that ISP’s now rule. They can manipulate data speeds, create ‘fast lanes’, and charge you to stay competitive. Whether they exercise this control to harm small businesses is still unknown. But considering how cutthroat the industry has proven itself to be historically, this is a real concern.

Change is a long way off— you can relax, for now

At the very least, the future of the Internet is more volatile, but it is not time to run into the cellar just yet.

In response to these challenges individual states have worked to keep Net Neutrality rules in effect and protect businesses like yours. Some states, including New Jersey, Washington, Oregon and California, have moved to push legislation to protect Net Neutrality within their borders. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states have introduced bills to keep Net Neutrality in place.

Colorado has not joined this list as of the writing of this article, on July 2, 2018. But these challenges could slow down the process. Furthermore, keeping the limelight on ISPs will hopefully lessen their ability to play undemocratically.

With so much pending litigation and legislative action surrounding Net Neutrality, you can relax. Change takes time, and solutions need to be found. At the same time, ISPs will also need to consider public relations damage from any changes they make to their plans when the dust settles. The more harm they do to small businesses, the greater they risk reinstatement of Net Neutrality.

We will help you stay informed with periodic updates on Colorado and the nation as a whole, so you can be ready when and if real change occurs.