The end of net neutrality: 3 implications for businesses

By Kaitlyn Hyde on December 12th, 2017

While spending the holidays with family is sure to bring good food and laughter, it can also lead to the inevitable political debate. This year, there’s a new topic for families to add to the debate docket: net neutrality. With Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai announcing his plans to repeal net neutrality just days before Thanksgiving, the buzz surrounding this topic was palpable. As we look ahead to 2018, what does the end of net neutrality mean, and more specifically, what could it mean for your business?

First, let’s break it down. Net neutrality is an Obama-era legislation requiring internet services providers (ISPs) to treat all internet traffic as equal. ISPs are barred from blocking, slowing or throttling web content under the current policy. Ending net neutrality could allow for paid prioritization, the concept of creating “fast lanes” in which ISPs could charge content owners more to increase web download times and reach their users faster. We recognize net neutrality is a challenging topic, so feel free to check out this Washington Post or Forbes article to learn more.

Repealing the regulation could drive several changes for your business and its ability to reach current customers and prospects. Three potential implications are outlined below: 

1. Even tougher outlook for start-ups. Earlier we talked a bit about paid prioritization. On the flipside, if the legislation is repealed and broadband companies adopt paid prioritization policies, the content owners who do not pay more may face slower web download speeds. As a result, they may have more difficulty in reaching their target audiences and thus, need to creatively think through their approach for marketing, sales, etc. This shift could be especially problematic for start-ups and other small businesses who lack the capital to compete with their larger counterparts. In fact, more than 1,000 U.S.-based start-ups have signed a petition in favor of net neutrality, claiming the end of this regulation will lead to an unequal playing field for business of different sizes.

2. Shifting to a decrease in video-based content; revival of offline marketing approaches. If net neutrality is repealed and businesses’ internet speeds are impacted, business may begin altering their marketing tactics to best reach their target audiences with the least amount of broadband. Video, for example, requires a high amount of broadband and may be unsustainable for smaller companies. Where cost is too prohibitive, other companies may reconsider their offline marketing activities including tradeshows and direct mail.

3. Healthcare IT, telemedicine providers at risk. Cloud-based platforms require high-speed internet connectivity, and with prohibitive costs for patients and businesses, telemedicine services, patient data access and interoperability between health IT solutions may all be negatively impacted. Ultimately this could mean patients are most at risk, particularly lower income and rural populations, further exacerbating health disparities among these groups. While net neutrality is an evolving business challenge, we look forward to seeing how the industry adapts and acclimates itself to the potential new marketplace.

The FCC vote to repeal net neutrality is scheduled for December 14. What’s your biggest business or communications concern for the end of net neutrality?

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