Net Neutrality - What you need to know
By Sarah Mueller on December 15, 2017 in Company News
Yesterday's FCC vote in favor of repealing net neutrality regulations caused a huge stir online. Changes in internet regulations will impact everyone – consumers and businesses. Supporters of net neutrality regulations say these rules are necessary to keep the internet free and fair to all. Critics say it’s another example of unnecessary government interference.
For many reasons, this is a controversial topic. There’s a lot of misinformation on net neutrality and an overall misunderstanding of what it is and how it impacts people. The decision yesterday could change how everyone is able to access the internet. Here’s what you need to know:
What exactly IS net neutrality?
Net neutrality regulations were put into place in 2015. These regulations basically classify internet access as a public utility, meaning providers are not able to control the traffic that flows through them based on preference. Internet Service Providers, or ISPs cannot influence, promote, or prevent certain websites or content providers. In other words, Comcast cannot choose to vary access speed for Netflix over Hulu.
But the internet worked fine before 2015, won’t it be fine again?
Well…the internet worked, but there were some examples of shady things going on. In 2014, Netflix paid Comcast to stop slowing down its users’ connections when streaming content.
If you use the analogy of the internet being a highway, net neutrality regulations essentially protected against ISPs charging to use the fast lane. Without net neutrality, ISPs can pick and choose who gets faster connection speeds. In theory, without net neutrality, an ISP could charge varying amounts to a consumer for access to certain groups of websites.
How do internet regulations impact me?
Net neutrality impacts how you are able to access the internet, and at what speed. Ending net neutrality gives Internet Service Providers (ISPs) freedom to block or limit access to sites. For example, if you receive internet service through Verizon (who owns Yahoo, BTW), they would be able to slow your access to Yahoo’s competitor, Google, in order to encourage you to use its search engine. Paying to use Google? It. Just. Got. Real.
How does net neutrality impact websites?
These regulations have kept internet providers from asserting control over how online content is delivered to consumers. Without these regulations, it may be more difficult for smaller online content providers to compete with large, established ones, especially if they need to pay to be served at a faster speed. With net neutrality, all websites are on an even playing field. Every business has the ability to create content that ranks – it’s all about the quality, usability, and authenticity of the content, the site, and the writer. Without net neutrality, not everyone is equal, and large-scale business giants could have a significant advantage over smaller sites.
If you have or manage a website, you should be paying close attention to what happens next. The future without net neutrality could very well change the way we know digital marketing today. And strategies to get your content seen by consumers could get a lot more expensive.
Who supports net neutrality?
A surprising majority of Americans – regardless of political affiliations – support net neutrality, along with a number of major tech players like Netflix. Other companies, like Google, Facebook and Amazon, have also raised concerns. However, in recent years, ISPs have spent a lot of money lobbying to change the regulations.
Who opposes net neutrality?
Although the majority of Americans (reportedly 76%) support net neutrality, internet service providers could benefit monetarily from this policy change. Without net neutrality these companies will be able to charge consumers for access to content. Four corporations — Comcast, Charter, AT&T, and Verizon — account for about 76 percent of the 94.5 million internet subscribers in the United States, as of 2017’s third fiscal quarter, according to a report from the Leichtman Research Group.
Also, reportedly, a lot of dead commenters oppose net neutrality as well.
What can I do?
Right now, there’s not much. There is a group asking Congress to stop the repeal by passing a Resolution of Disapproval to overturn the FCC vote. There is also a group of Attorneys General that have declared an intention to sue to stop the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality. This legal challenge follows a letter from 18 attorneys general asking the FCC to delay their vote.
In the immediate future, nothing will change for consumers but internet providers like Comcast have already begun to change how they will handle internet traffic. If content providers like Netflix have to pay internet providers like Comcast, those costs will inevitably be passed on to consumers. It’s still too early to fully predict the implications of this repeal, and it will take some time for the consequences to reach the everyday consumer.
The best thing you can do at this point is to stay informed.