The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the other week voted 3-2 to adopt rules that tighten oversight of mobile and fixed broadband providers to better protect net neutrality. And earlier this month, FCC Chair Tom Wheeler unveiled a proposal that would subject mobile and fixed broadband providers to utility-like regulations.
Over the past few weeks (or years), you’ve probably heard a lot about this issue. If you’re not sure what it really means, then please read on. While we won’t dive into the legalities and minutiae, we can offer up a quick summary and then help you figure out how it might affect you and your small business.
So what exactly is Net Neutrality?
Simply stated, it’s the idea that all Internet data should be equal. It means that Internet providers shouldn’t be allowed to charge different companies more or less for their data or to slow down, or block, access to Web sites and services they don’t like. This ‘Net Neutrality’ has been a core democratizing principle of the Internet since day one.
Opponents of net neutrality argue that broadband service providers have to be free to manage their networks so all customers receive adequate levels of service. They also argue that regulation of the internet will negatively influence innovation, which the internet thrives on, and impede free speech. Most importantly, they make the point that some level of restriction, or at least prioritization, is necessary to promote the best interest of consumers as a whole.
Net neutrality advocates don’t argue about the need to prioritize traffic in the above example, they just argue that there should be some rules and regulations in place to decide how to go about the selection and prioritization of the internet traffic.
What are the details of new rules?
The new rules reclassify suppliers of both fixed and mobile networks as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act. Specifically, the rules prohibit such suppliers from:
- Blocking access to legal content, applications, and services
- Slowing down Internet traffic for legal content, applications, and services
- Paid prioritization that would create Internet “fast lanes”
In addition, the rules require service providers to disclose information regarding:
- Data limits
- Network management practices
- Promotional rates
So, how could these changes to Net Neutrality affect your small business? Here’s our guess on the top two.
1. Higher Costs:
Without net neutrality, Internet Service Providers are able to create their own payment options for individuals and businesses. Internet companies could potentially charge higher fees for higher speeds. For companies that can’t afford the more expensive fees, possibly small businesses like yours, they would be subject to a slower website than larger competitors – effectively squeezing smaller companies out of the marketplace.
2. Uneven Playing Field
Net neutrality ensures small businesses are able to compete with larger companies. With both having the same access to the Internet, they are able to have the same opportunities for their businesses. If net neutrality is eliminated, small businesses may not be able to afford to share content and therefore, unable to compete with their larger competitors.
As a small business owner, it’s important to understand net neutrality. The decisions being made could possibly have an impact on your small business and how you are able to access the Internet in the future. For more information and counsel, feel free to contact your NexusTek team.