How Will Net Neutrality Affect Me?

Hummingbird CreativeBranding & Creative, Web Services

Man on a laptop talking to a woman

if you’re a small- to mid-sized business, quite a bit

On December 14, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to repeal regulations for internet service providers (also known as ISPs). These regulations were commonly known as net neutrality.

Net neutrality has been a bone of contention among network users and providers since the 1990s. Between 2005 and 2015, there were five attempts to pass bills in Congress containing provisions protecting net neutrality but all ultimately failed.

In 2014, the FCC reported a new draft rule that would permit ISPs to fast-track certain sites, threatening net neutrality. After public backlash, they were forced to consider two options. Option one was to pass the rule and allow ISPs to send content at varying speeds. Option two, most popular amongst the nation, was to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service and preserving net neutrality. After deliberation, in 2015 broadband was classified as a telecommunications service and net neutrality was protected.

Now, the FCC led by Ajit Pai has repealed these policies.

If you have questions about net neutrality, you’re not alone; and, because of our work in the digital arena, we’ve been watching these issues closely. We’ve attempted to answer the most common questions as clearly as possible while answering the big question many have– what does the end of net neutrality mean for my business?

what is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the blanket term used to describe the set of regulations that prevent your ISP– like AT&T and Spectrum– from altering Internet speeds dependent on what pages you’re visiting and censoring online content.

After net neutrality passed, the web became known as the “open internet” where users could share whatever information they wanted without interference from their ISP.

what’s the title II that’s been in the news?

Title II refers to a part of the Communications Act. Passed in 1934– way before the Internet was even dreamed of– the Communications Act was meant to regulate mass media communication. In the 1934 version, they were referring to wires and radios as the form of mass media communication.

Title II was written to regulate what they called “common carriers”, a term that refers to utility providers of electricity and telephone landlines. That kept your electricity company from charging your neighbors on price for usage and you a possibly higher price.

Prior to 2015, your ISP wasn’t considered a common carrier. To better regulate net neutrality, the FCC reclassified the ISPs as common carriers which forced them to follow the regulations under Title II.

This led to the Open Internet Order where they declared:

“We adopt carefully-tailored rules that would prevent specific practices we know are harmful to Internet openness— blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization—as well as a strong standard of conduct designed to prevent the deployment of new practices that would harm Internet openness. We also enhance our transparency rule to ensure that consumers are fully informed as to whether the services they purchase are delivering what they expect.”

If you’re curious about what else is in the Communications Act, you can read the FCC’s report. But, be warned– it’s a long read with a lot of jargon.

what are the arguments for and against net neutrality?

Just like with any new law, there’s pros and cons, supporters and opposers, and varying opinions.

arguments for net neutrality

free speech

This is the main point most people for net neutrality talk about. The Open Internet Order prohibited ISPs from censoring websites, content and applications at their discretion. In the post-repeal web, that’s no longer true.

There’s been a big discussion about whether or not big ISPs will maintain net neutrality like they’ve promised. Comcast promised to maintain net neutrality but as of this blog, all mention of net neutrality has been removed from their site.

fair competition

There’s a line of thinking that competition is good for the consumer because it provides them with various pricing and options from companies. However, competition is already pretty scarce between ISPs.

Take a moment and think of three different ISPs.

There’s a high chance you thought of at least one of these companies:

  • Comcast Xfinity
  • AT&T
  • Verizon Fios
  • Charter Spectrum
  • CenturyLink or
  • Dish

In Cary, where Hummingbird is located, we have more options than many do. Some locations aren’t as lucky.

Companies might also have trouble paying the post-repeal fees required by ISPs for faster content delivery. Big companies like Netflix, Google, Amazon and Hulu, will be able to pay those fees but smaller companies, like Crackle and Acorn TV, might be pushed out of the market.

arguments against net neutrality

restricted innovation

FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, and many others felt like net neutrality restricted innovation by ISPs due to their classification as utilities. With the removal of the net neutrality regulations, ISPs will be free to come up with creative innovations that can further progress. While supporters of net neutrality say the reversal will stifle competition, opponents feel that the reversal will do the opposite.

Verizon is onboard with the repeal of net neutrality. In a statement, they said that the reversal will “catalyze innovation”.

“We are helping consumers and promoting competition,” said Chairman Pai before the vote. “Broadband providers will have more incentives to build networks, especially to underserved areas.”

However, many are concerned that this innovative spirit will take the form of higher prices for higher speeds. This could hold serious repercussions for businesses that rely on the Internet to operate and attract new customers. Higher costs may be passed onto patrons to help offset the new fees.

if it’s not broke, don’t fix it

Net Neutrality opposers say that the Internet was fine prior to 2015. And, because it worked fine in 2014, it will work fine now.

Comcast Senior Executive VP, David Cohen, wrote in a blog post “there is a lot of misinformation that this is ‘the end of the world as we know it’ for the Internet. Our Internet service is not going to change.”

what does the end of net neutrality mean for my business?

Depends. Are you the size of Coca-Cola or Nike? It probably won’t mean that much to you. Maybe some extra fees that you can swallow as the cost of doing business.

However, if you’re a small- to mid-size business, the repeal might be unfavorable to you in terms of added fees.

The issue of net neutrality isn’t over yet. Congress is compiling their reports and there might be even more changes coming. We’ll continue to watch the situation and see what happens.

Do you want an agency that looks out for your best interests and stays on top of all the latest trends and news?

Look no further than Hummingbird Creative Group; our team of creative branding professionals has got you covered! We know exactly how to navigate the changing digital landscape. Schedule a call today to see how we can help your business. Contact us now!