• June 22, 2022

What is net neutrality and how can it affect your business?

The topic of net neutrality has been the subject of much discussion on US forums and discussion boards for a long time now. To first understand why many companies are so upset about the issue, you need to understand what net neutrality is.

What is net neutrality? According to a Business Insider article, net neutrality prevents internet providers from dictating the types of content users can access online. Instead, Internet providers are required to treat all sources of traffic equally. Why is this topic so controversial that the US Court of Appeals had to step in? Because Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast want to charge for the use of their networks. That is, these providers will have the ability to choose what consumers watch online and then charge content providers.

Internet speed is basically a lump sum game. If your competition can afford to pay to drive in the fast lane, then by default your small business is placed in the slow lane. The deeper the company’s pockets, the more competition they can overcome on the way to new customers. Right now, many small bloggers and new websites have exactly the same opportunity to reach an audience as large corporations. However, it is important that you understand what net neutrality is and how it can affect you. When narrowed down, net neutrality means that all data is equally accessible over the Internet. This means that regardless of whether you are a small accounting firm or one of the renowned international firms, you have the same access to post information and access other information through the web. You also need to consider things like advertising and marketing budgets to get the word out, but in terms of accessibility, you’re on a level playing field with the big dogs. If net neutrality goes out the window, so does equal accessibility. Some things to consider:

Pay more for better access:

No net neutrality means Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will be able to create accessibility tiers, which means they can start demanding more money for better accessibility. Smaller companies with tight budgets won’t be able to compete for access with larger companies that can afford the new rates. It also means there’s nothing stopping big companies or competitors from paying ISPs to delay access to other sites, putting them out of business.

Limited access to content:

ISPs may limit what you have access based on their own corporate interests. From Business Insider: “For example, Comcast would probably like to promote NBC’s content over ABC to its Internet subscribers. That’s because Comcast and NBC are affiliated. But net neutrality prevents Comcast from being able to discriminate, and it must show both NBC and ABC. content evenly as a result. That means no slower loading time for ABC, and definitely no blocking of ABC altogether.” If net neutrality goes away, there’s nothing to prevent corporate discrimination like this, which means your vendor storefronts may be limited to just those on Rodeo Drive. Your favorite sources of information may not be as available to you as they are now.

Limited access for potential customers:

While the example above explained how you would be limited in what you could access (potentially increasing costs for your business as your options decrease), it also works the other way around. Prospects will now also have a harder time finding you. Entrepreneur likens this to buying cable TV: “Instead of being able to sell to anyone with an Internet connection…entrepreneurs would see their customers limited to those who paid for the ‘internet package’ that covers access to their particular website. It would be like your cable TV plan: the more you pay, the more channels you get.” In essence, your customers may just be directed to the Rodeo Drive storefront and not realize that there are more efficient and equally effective options like you.

Slow loading times:

So let’s say ISPs don’t completely block access to those sites that aren’t part of their approved network. That doesn’t mean they won’t try to encourage you to visit their favorite sites. They can do this by interrupting streaming or slowing down load times on websites that don’t pay a premium. The speed and reliability of a site can make it good or bad. Admit it, you just decided to leave a page when it took more than a couple of seconds to load. That impatience is universal and could affect the traffic on your website. And if you wanted to engage in video marketing and streaming on your website, you might be on the creek without a paddle (slowly, very slowly drifting).

Leveraging Video Marketing:

SMBs that rely on video (such as YouTube, Netflix, etc.) as part of their marketing strategy could be affected if net neutrality is removed. For example, if your company streams videos to homes across the country, or you want customers to watch videos of your company’s products, chances are you’ll be affected. Likewise, if SMBs can’t pay ISPs to share their content, their potential customers may not be able to watch product videos and may not be tempted to buy your products. Also, the investment in producing and optimizing the videos will result in financial loss. The FCC’s decision, therefore, could have an impact on your SMB and how you’ll be able to access the Internet in the future.

As a small business owner, it’s important to understand net neutrality. The decisions that are made could potentially impact your small business and how you will be able to access the Internet in the future.

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