UPDATE: While this piece was written in July 2017, the fight to keep Net Neutrality still rages on today. This will not affect you, but a loss of Net Neutrality may have ramifications on your small business.
From paying more to losing potential clients, here’s why Net Neutrality is so important.
As a business owner, you look at different things based on how it will affect you, your customers, and your business. Today is Net Neutrality day, the day in which many companies are participating – with great frustration to you.
Some websites, such as Etsy, Netflix, Vimeo, KickStarter and more, will display pop-up alerts alerting users of “what the internet would be like without Net Neutrality,” and others will have webpages – like Wired in years past – that would be inaccessible to show just how far reaching and detrimental it would be if a removal of Net Neutrality was sanctioned.
But, as a business owner, how would the loss of Net Neutrality affect you? First, we must explain what Net Neutrality is.
Net Neutrality essentially means no one company, or person, has advantages over their internet connection.
Right now, many people pay ISPs, or Internet Service Providers, a monthly payment to connect online. ISPs have multiple speed tiers depending on the type of connection and the area of which you are located.
These ISPs only act as gateways to the openness of the World Wide Web.
Three Open Internet Rules were created in 2010. Those rules are as follows:
Transparency, no blocking, and no discrimination. Essentially stating ISP needed to express how they managed their networks, would not be able to block legal content, and would not discriminate any and all sources of web traffic.
This meant the internet would be open and free, in terms of accessibility.
In 2015, an addendum to the Communications Act of 1934 was added. Title II labels the internet as a public utility, which brings regulation of those providing access online, allows for competitors to enter the market (think Google Fiber), and to set rates. However, large ISPs and cable companies are seeking to remove Title II.
This is just a quick, simplified overview, for a comprehensive timeline, click here.
So, what does this mean to you?
Simply put, this may just be another obstacle for you to go through. Imagine if your ISP blocked Twitter and Facebook, making it extremely difficult to communicate with your customer base.
It’s not just about having to pay more money. If you run a company that offers a product or service that interferes with your ISPs parent company, you could lose out on gaining potential clients.
ISPs could potentially begin to extort small businesses for selling products or services using their network. There has been incidents of this happening relatively recently.
Think of the internet as a super highway. You’re able to get on and off without a problem. Removing Net Neutrality may bring about toll booths, having to pay small amounts to access certain roads.
In many ways, removing Net Neutrality may push ISPs to operate like cable companies, offering multiple tiers of websites to access for specified monthly amounts.
One argument for removing Net Neutrality is the ability to charge network hogs like Alphabet, Dropbox, Netflix, and BitTorrent clients more to help grow and build the infrastructure of networks for ISPs. Charging them more money for a place on their network might also mean a price hike for services that you may rely on.
Net Neutrality – for the business owner – means a simple, even playing field. You and your competitors access the same customers in the same areas all the while on different ISPs. Remove that neutrality and your competition may very well steal your customers, leaving you at a disadvantage.
In other words, not only could you be spending more money, you could also be losing money.
If you want to join the protest to keeping Net Neutrality – alongside Mozilla, Reddit, Wikipedia, Google, Vimeo, Kickstarter, Netflix, Amazon, Deviant Art, SoundCloud, Funny or Die, Imgur, Patreon, Spotify, Weebly, Trello, Yelp, The Writers Guild of America West, and more – visit BattleForTheNet.com to see a comprehensive list of businesses joining the fight to save Net Neutrality and what you could do to help save it.