Net Neutrality and You
by Kate Lett
Over the past couple of years much has been discussed regarding net neutrality. Pro net neutrality campaigning began in as early as 2010 depending on which source you reference. In 2014 President Obama began calling for the Internet to be classified as a utility, meaning it would face the same regulation as phonelines and electrical service. This also meant the internet would remain open, and sites wouldn’t have to face throttling based on content or payment. However, on December 14, 2017 the FCC voted to repeal the law and now the only thing that can save it is…you. In December 2017, net neutrality was reversed despite a strong opposition from companies such as Facebook and Google and a huge public outcry.
But what exactly is net neutrality? In short, net neutrality means that internet service providers (ISPs), like Comcast, must serve all content at the same speed. It doesn’t matter how much bandwidth that content is using, all websites must be served to the consumers in the same way. There is only one “lane” through which the content can travel, no fast lanes for websites willing to pay more, or slow lanes where speeds are throttled for websites which can’t afford the fast lane. Everything from the weather, to Mom and Pop retailers, from cat videos to summer blockbuster movies must be accessible at the same speed. Net neutrality provides an even playing field for all websites.
Pay to Play
One of the biggest concerns for repealing net neutrality is the potential for a “pay to play” system. ISPs would be able to charge companies to serve content at a faster speed. Let’s look at an example, Kate’s Kimchi has a great craft product and a wonderfully optimized website. What Kate’s Kimchi doesn’t have is a large budget to pay ISPs for the internet “fast lane.” The fear is, when a customer lands at the website for Kate’s Kimchi, the pages will load slowly, or be throttled down if Kate’s Kimchi doesn’t pay the ISP extra fees for faster delivery speeds. Everyone in ecomm knows a slow page load time is a fast conversion killer. In this example customers will grow frustrated, close the window and instead go to a National Big Box website, who can afford the internet fast lane. This also could directly drive up the cost of specific types of internet services. For instance, video streaming sites use more bandwidth, and so ISPs could throttle the speed that the website content is delivered to users, unless the site pays for the fast lane. It’s also important to remember that there are thousands of ISPs out there. Therefore, a retailer could have to find the ISPs that are delivering their content slowly and pay all of them an extra fee for increased delivery speeds.
There are other concerns of course. There is talk certain ISPs would charge extra to view some of Google’s content such as Google news. ISPs could also drive traffic to sites that fall under the same corporate umbrella, and charge for sites outside. Meaning if you prefer Amazon it would cost you, but NBC might be free. Those in favor of Net Neutrality believe this is censorship, and limits the flow of ideas, communication all while stifling innovation and creativity.
An Ongoing Fight
The impact of the repeal of net neutrality is yet to be seen. There is a massive fight mounting in Washington to reinstate a free and open internet. Large behemoths like Google and Netflix are fighting alongside grassroots organizations and the public at large. We feel it is important to understand not only the issue, but the consequences it could have on your business. We encourage everyone to do their research, find out who the man behind the curtain really is, learn as much as possible about both sides of the argument and think how this might impact your business.