Why Net Neutrality Matters for Your Small Business

If you were paying attention at all over the last week or two then you’ve likely heard the news about the FCC’s decision on Net Neutrality. You may or may not understand what that means though. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the commission is the United States’ primary authority for communications law, regulation and technological innovation. This Commission recently voted to repeal certain rules and regulations regarding the internet known commonly as net neutrality rules. The rules were designed to provide certain protections and standards for consumers.

What does this decision mean in the real world though right? Sure, another decision from some federal commission sounds fancy but what does it do? well, maybe nothing. There are still a few steps before the decision becomes final. This whole thing could turn out to be a non issue in the even that the next steps don’t happen. But for the sake of this blog, lets assume that the ruling is finalized, what are some of the potential implications that come along with this decision?

First, The FCC’s decision would change the internet from being classified as a Utility to an Information Service. This would open the door for service providers to be able to throttle the speed at which items are allowed to flow through the Internet. This leads directly to a pay to play system. Therefore, larger more established platforms like YouTube (Google) would be able to easily pay for free-flowing fast loading speeds. A newer platform trying to get off the ground is not going to be able to keep up with that and is automatically at a disadvantage and not able to compete at the same level. Some would consider this a problem. If you have an e-commerce business or conduct business online at all (Which most of us do) you can see how this can be an issue. Consumers have grown accustomed to easy free flowing transactions online. If a potential client or customer cannot move through your purchase process with relative ease, the odds of you losing them increases greatly.

Second, ISPs will be able to slow down, block, or charge more for use of software. Imagine that AT&T decided to push against Google, Net Neutrality would protect the a small business owner in some critical ways. For example, if you utilize Google’s office software suite and AT&T decides to block or slow the flow to these softwares you would be forced to move all of your work to a software that AT&T is more friendly toward. In case that example seems far-fetched allow me to remind you, when Apple introduced Facetime, AT&T considered considered charging customers more for use of the software over their cellular networks. With most of us working to expand our margins a little at a time, this would raise a large obstacle.

The head of the FCC, Ajit Pai, says that the repeal is intended to help consumers by promoting competition between service providers who complain that the Net Neutrality rules have restricted growth of networks.

The actual results of this ruling remain to be seen.

Let me know what you think of the FCC’s decision in the comments.

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