Net Neutrality Repealed
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), on December 14, voted to end net neutrality. Net neutrality is also known as the code that allows all internet consumers access to content equally and without bias. The vote to end net neutrality this week has pushed all related stakeholders into debate, driven by differences in opinion. These opinions concern: its consequences on various parties involved, predicting strategies the stakeholders can use to influence business, and the changing landscape of the internet services industry.
Net neutrality enables equal access to consumers from all backgrounds. This makes it unlawful for Internet Service Providers (ISP) to favor organizations that are willing to pay more for their data to be given preferential access. While this seems appealing as it prevents empowering big companies to dominate internet content, some argue that with net neutrality repealed, bigger companies can plan on launching innovative products and services. But, focusing on a targeted audience who are willing to pay more money to get preferential service could negatively impact smaller businesses.
Internet Service Providers (ISP) are organizations such as; Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Spectrum, who connect users to their network to provide internet services to consumers. While ISPs feel consumers won’t notice a change, rallies to repeal net neutrality were very clearly supported by ISPs. Most professionals in the start-up and technology space support net neutrality efforts as fears of higher rates could disrupt the free flow of data. As Entrepreneur puts it, “This idea seems incredibly similar to an old mob tactic where business owners have to pay the mob in order to operate a store in “mob territory.”
The internet has enabled businesses to create, operate and deliver online. This is also evidenced in the moving away from traditional B2B or B2C business channels. Small businesses with an online presence could potentially see an immediate impact from the loss of net neutrality. This is because revenue is usually directly dependent upon website traffic. The NY Times says, “smaller businesses fear they may not have a level digital playing field to compete against deep-pocketed industry giants that could pay to get an advantage online.”
Data prioritization enables the “fast lane” idea that has floated around since the vote. This means that ISPs will be able to prioritize content from select sources – determined by price. There is wide expectation that data prioritization is imminent and would be put into operational and supply chain costs. From the increased usage of social media for marketing purposes, to big data being used to streamline procurement, the internet has provided room for technology to add immeasurable value to businesses.
Proponents of net neutrality argue that the vote to repeal will reduce small businesses’ online visibility. This has the potential to not only force small businesses to invest more to maintain current visibility, it gives certain bigger corporations the ability to inflate prices.
Additionally, ISPs generate content themselves, which further calls into question the power handed off to the providers. Remember, ISPs own the responsibility of selecting content that could be provided on the internet to consumers. Obviously, this will come as a welcome task for ISPs interested in favoring their own content over others. We will see the results soon, but self-serving ISPs will certainly be speculated on.
Many content creators are generating content not just based on what viewers read, but also on what they “look for”. Utilizing keywords that an audience has used frequently over a period of recent time is a good starting point to generate content. For this reason, high quality web analytics have changed the business model for successful SEOs.
Keyword density and other factors can increase search traffic quickly. But, what the vote to repeal net neutrality could potentially do, is reverse how content is driving SEO. Kissmetrics says SEO is currently primarily about content marketing. But, data prioritization could potentially include promotion of data and information owned by major players with the ability to pay more. Thereby, reducing traffic on websites that might not be able to dedicate additional capital to increase visibility.
Another impact the vote could have is on content freshness – a cornerstone of SEO according to SearchEngineLand. Keyword trends can force specific keywords to be refreshed by Google due to increasing popularity. In these instances, when certain keywords increase their number of search queries, new content generated on these keywords can be prioritized. Now, however, maintaining freshness of content could become harder as ISPs will have the ability to restrict its content. This would likely include limited players or themselves, thus reducing the supply of high quality new content being demanded from consumers.
Internet service providers have commented on the issue and some have reassured consumers that no significant change will be experienced. But, concerns over data monitoring and data security have been expressed and will certainly be a growing topic of debate. SEO experts generally agree the impact on small businesses will be key in determining its long-term acceptance. We believe that this topic must be monitored closely over the coming months and years to ensure negative impacts on SEO are identified and overcome. We will continue to keep you posted as more information is made available.
If you are a small business owner, or work for a small business, you must pay attention to this issue. Unfortunately, we are seeing a shift in opportunity across the playing field with policies like these. From an expanding startup and small business environment, to the largest multinational corporations, the shift in internet capabilities is about to change. So what can you do? One way to fight back as a small business owner is to contact your local elected officials and voice your concern. Also, you can follow along with protesters and tech industry leaders who support the movement know as “Break the Internet.”
Here is a quip from a recent email received by them:
It’s happening! In the midst of our #OneMoreVote day of action yesterday, the Senate and House both introduced resolutions to overrule Ajit Pai’s FCC and save net neutrality.
If passed, the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolutions introduced yesterday would block the FCC’s repeal, and restore basic protections that prevent giant cable companies from abusing their monopoly status to control what we see and do online.
If we fail to beat back Ajit Pai’s attack, giant companies like Verizon and Comcast will get to decide where you can get news and information, how you watch videos and listen to music, and squeeze you for more money to access a less awesome Internet.
But we’re not going to let that happen. We’re mobilizing the entire Internet, from popular websites to small businesses to millions of ordinary Internet users, and turning all of that online outrage into effective action directly focused on the lawmakers who are the most likely to come to our side and vote for the CRA.
Dear SunCity Advising:
Thanks for contacting me with your opposition to changes to the FCC’s net neutrality rules. It’s good to hear from you and I appreciate the opportunity to respond.
I believe that we must protect American’s right to access information. At the same, it is imperative that we resist expanding the size and scope of government by creating additional regulations. It has been demonstrated time and again that government regulations do not always protect consumers and may actually harm them by stifling innovation and growth. That is why I have concerns with the FCC’s previous expansion of its regulation on the internet, which relies on authorities granted decades before the invention of the internet, and will increase uncertainty and harm investment. The FCC’s recent action sets the stage for Congress to craft narrow rules aimed at addressing our modern challenges, with the goal of protecting consumers and fostering innovation. As this matter continues to be discussed, please know that I will keep your comments in mind.
Thank you again for contacting me. If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to let me know.
Member of Congress
Dear SunCity Advising:
Thank you for writing to express your support for open access to the Internet. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.
I understand that you are concerned about Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai’s views on net neutrality and that you oppose loosening regulations on Internet providers.
As you know, in 2015, the FCC approved rules that allow the agency to regulate Internet service providers and prevent them from giving favorable treatment to some websites but not others. The rules are based on Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-104). In developing its rules, the FCC stated: “Together Title II and Section 706 support clear rules of the road, providing the certainty needed for innovators and investors, and the competitive choices and freedom demanded by consumers.” The FCC also stated that, under the rules, “broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no ‘fast lanes.’” In June 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the FCC had the authority to issue net neutrality rules, allowing the agency to regulate Internet service providers.
On May 18, 2017, the FCC voted in favor of starting the rulemaking process to overturn the net neutrality rules. And on December 14, 2017, by a 3-2 party-line vote the FCC repealed net neutrality protections and reversed the rules approved in 2015. You can find more information regarding this vote at the link below:
Please know that I believe that a free and open Internet is key for economic growth and innovation. You may be interested to know that, before the FCC’s vote, I sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai highlighting the importance of net neutrality, specifically for women-owned businesses. You may view the letter at the link below:
Additionally, on December 4, 2017, I signed a letter led by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) with 14 of my Senate colleagues expressing concern over allegations that bots had filed comments to the FCC during the net neutrality rulemaking process. The letter also requested information about alleged anomalies surrounding the public record and called for a delay of the planned vote on December 14, 2017, to roll back net neutrality rules.
I also recognize that you support reversing the FCC’s vote on net neutrality using the Congressional Review Act (Public Law 104-121). Specifically, I understand that you support passage of a resolution of disapproval to reverse these actions. On December 14, 2017, Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) announced that he will be introducing a resolution of congressional disapproval that would reverse the FCC’s recent decision to repeal the 2015 rules on net neutrality. You may be pleased to know I am a cosponsor of this resolution. This resolution would use the Congressional Review Act to preserve net neutrality protections and invalidate the FCC’s decision. Please know that I will be sure to keep your views in mind should legislation on this issue come before me in the Senate.
United States Senator