In 2015 the Obama Administration in the United States created rules to keep all information on the Internet on a level playing field. It's called Net Neutrality. Under net neutrality Internet Service Providers (ISPs) deliver all content be it apps, music, politics, websites, videos, movies (like Netflix), equally. That means ISPs can’t block or slow down certain sites or information you are looking for.
Now, the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S. has voted to overturn those rules stateside and get rid of net neutrality. Canada still has neutrality laws in place, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see the new FCC rules affect north of the 49.
What does getting rid of Net Neutrality mean, for Americans at least? In short, pay to play.
Without net neutrality, ISPs can package websites and apps much like cable companies package TV channels and charge a premium. For example, a consumer might pay for a bundle that only includes Fox News. ABC, CNN, and others will cost more as part of another package. What if a consumer likes Buzzfeed or Huffington Post? You can quickly see how the cost of surfing the Internet could quickly add up. Consumers would lose access to the millions of websites and apps they currently get on monthly bills. Suffice to say, Internet bills will likely increase and consumers could get less access to information for it. It could get worse. If an ISP does not like the content someone is searching for because it doesn’t align with their corporate agenda or vision, then the user could potentially see that information blocked or slowed down as well. They could manipulate and discriminate Internet traffic. Not only that, ISPs will now see more competition for 'fast lane' access on the web and that means fees for speed could conceivably go up as well.
What it might mean for Canadian businesses and their ability to remain competitive:
Without net neutrality in the U.S., Canadian web-based businesses will have a harder time competing south of the border. If you want your brand in an Internet fast lane, you’ll likely have to pay more. You may even wonder if those extra fees will be fair, or if your business can take the hit. How can you ensure your content isn’t being throttled down or blocked?
Do you utilize websites based in the U.S. in order to do business? Many websites we use are based there and if they can’t afford to pay to be in a fast lane then access to them may become much more limited.
Are you a Canadian company with consumers in the U.S.? What if you can’t engage with consumers on a certain social media platform because it’s not available in the bundle they have? Online brand management could become a lot more challenging.
Let’s face it, the U.S. has a dominant presence globally. The concern now would be that the new direction the FCC is taking by getting rid of net neutrality could have a domino effect around the world. It could inspire big telecom companies here to push for less regulation.
If a small business requires Internet access and is forced to pay more for whatever bundles they need in order to promote and connect with their consumers it could impact their bottom line. It becomes another cost of doing business and with many small businesses already on tight margins, it would mean cuts elsewhere or an increase in prices to your clients. Those clients could be Canadian consumers or Canadian companies in their supply chain.
How do you feel about getting rid of net neutrality?