It finally happened. Even amidst all the protest and debates, Net Neutrality officially met its end this month. What was Net Neutrality? How will this affect the internet? Will small businesses be affected? I hopefully will be able to clear some of this up.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality was a series of rules passed in 2015 that limited the internet providers’ (Verizon, Comcast) control over websites and content. Under Net Neutrality, all content had to be treated the same. Verizon, for example, couldn’t block its users from accessing Facebook and Twitter. These rules were created in order to even the playing field between small start-up companies and big corporations like Microsoft and Google.
These rules boiled down into three prohibitions:
Internet providers could not block, throttle, or offer paid prioritization to companies.
Everyone had to be on the same playing field.
What Happens Now That It’s Repealed?
As for short term effects, your every day internet experience probably won’t change at all. The fear, however, comes from what power internet providers now have. Now, with those rules prohibiting blocking, throttling and paid prioritization gone, the floodgates are open.
Here are a few examples of what could happen.
Say Verizon developed and released its own streaming service to compete with Netflix and Hulu. Now with the Net Neutrality rules gone, Verizon could offer its users a slower connection to Netflix, Hulu and other streaming sites, and prioritizing their new service.
Another major change internet providers can now make is having a basic plan and a premium plan. If you aren’t willing to pay more money to internet providers, they now have the ability to throttle the load times of your website, which negatively impacts almost every aspect of your online business. Meanwhile, big businesses that can afford the premium speed won’t be affected at all.
What Does This Mean For Small Business?
The main fear for small businesses is the previous point: start-ups may now be at a disadvantage when coming into the online ecosystem because they don’t have the money and resources that larger, more established companies have. Net Neutrality ensured that no matter what content you delivered on the internet, it was as important as Facebook, Amazon and Google when it comes to users accessing it.
It may still be a bit too early to tell if internet providers will now follow through with these changes, but now that they have the legal ability to do so, it’s important to educate and prepare yourself and your business.