Will Your Business Survive if Net Neutrality is Gone?
Recently, there’s been a lot of debate about net neutrality. Opinions have been ranging from good to bad to confused. For such a controversial issue, the definition of net neutrality is often blurred, turning an important phrase into an empty buzzword. With so many misconceptions and even more confusion, we’ll be breaking down and explaining what net neutrality actually is and why it should matter to you and your business.
What Exactly is “Net Neutrality”?
At its core, net neutrality is the principle that everyone should have equal access to all data on the internet. Internet connection is normally a paid service provided by Internet Service Providers also known as ISPs.
Without net neutrality in place, ISPs could elect to provide priority access to the internet to select customers This would allow ISPs to potentially discriminate and apply charges differently based on the platform, IP address, or even the data being accessed at a given time. Because of this, net neutrality is often referred to as the First Amendment of the internet.
The big supporters of net neutrality are content creators such as Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft. Companies opposed to net neutrality are typically ISP companies such as Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and Cox. The main division of government that is charged with regulating all of these companies and the internet is the Federal Communications Commission, better known as the FCC. Now that we have a better understanding of what net neutrality is and all the players on the table, let’s talk about why it’s at risk of being taken away.
Why is Net Neutrality at Threat?
Many of the laws currently regulating the internet were set up by the FCC in 2015. The laws established in 2015 were primarily put in place to regulate ISPs and to allow the FCC to regulate both wireless and wired-in connections to the internet. By regulating ISPs, the FCC was able to keep ISPs from charging premium access to the internet. With the laws in place, the FCC could freely set rates and allow open competition within the web.
Former Verizon lawyer and new chairperson of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has been pushing to overturn the 2015 regulation since April of 2017. In May of 2017, the FCC announced intentions to repeal the initial order and to replace it with another later in the year. From May 18 to July 17 the FCC opened up a 90-day comment period to hear from the public on the issue. The FCC must reply to the publics’ opinions by August 16, before the final vote on the potential new regulation later this year.
But What’s at Risk for You?
Net neutrality is extremely beneficial for any company active on the internet, whether it’s their digital marketing efforts, daily research needs, or client services. Net neutrality tremendously evens the playing field on the internet. It allows for even-access competition without the need to worry that other players may have an advantage because they can pay more to ISPs. In this same vein, you can start a business online with a new idea easily. Net neutrality allows anyone to start on the internet and automatically be within the same playing field as internet giants like Amazon or Facebook.
Currently with net neutrality, starting a website is a relatively pain-free process. If you decide to start a website to grow your company, you don’t have to worry about paying-off ISPs just to potentially show up in front of customers. Rather than being penalized for not paying more to receive a decent internet speed, you’re already guaranteed that with net neutrality.
How well your website performs, including in speed and your ranking, will not be penalized if you can’t pay for better speeds. When you have to pay for better service or reach, how successful you are will be based on how much influence or money you have or can pay. New start-up companies and websites will have a much lesser chance of success when in opposition to a mega-company like Amazon if net neutrality no longer exists.
Removing net neutrality only really benefits big companies with a strong brand and Internet Service Providers. Smaller businesses and start-ups will most likely struggle to stay afloat.
Madison Martin is a senior at Louisiana State University pursing a degree in mass communication with a specialization in digital advertising, and a minor in fine art. In her free time, Madison enjoys drawing, napping, and playing video games.
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