On December 14, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to roll back net neutrality. Put in place in 2015 in order to make internet accessibility equal among all internet users, net neutrality sets a playing field for “open internet.” This law means that all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must deliver web traffic, applications, and content equally. Among consumers and business alike, net neutrality has been seen as a form of protection against unjust barriers being put up across the internet. The principle of net neutrality is that everyone should be able to communicate freely online, with equal access to websites, and equal ability to put up content in front of the larger internet audience.
By taking the consumers perspective, from basic internet users, to heavy internet users, to small and large businesses, reversing net neutrality doesn’t seem to spring any benefits. Across the board, anyone using the internet will have restricted access and could possibly even face new pay walls on the behalf of the ISP. Previously, net neutrality protected internet users from things like hidden fees, data caps, throttling, prioritization, and so on. The thought if this might seem scary to just about any user of the internet. But by taking a closer look at the potential consequences of the FCC’s vote, small to medium businesses (SMBs) are likely to face the bulk of the associated problems.
The reality of the situation at hand, is that the typical internet consumer is unlikely to see much of a difference in their internet experience. One positive to the repeal of net neutrality is that ISPs will have to inform users of any site blocking, speed throttling, or paid and affiliated prioritization. While this doesn’t solve the problem, it certainly reduces the impact. On that note, most ISPs are aware that the market for the average consumer is a competitive one. Users maintain the ability to merely switch providers if they feel the services they’re getting aren’t good enough. It’s unlikely that ISPs will make much of any changes to the basic user experience, as blocking and throttling will not benefit anyone at such a level. At the very least, this will bring a certain degree of transparency to any changes that come about, with no unexpected surprises.
With regards to businesses, services like public/private VPN, cloud connectivity, and VoIP/SIP connections may end up paying more for their current bandwidth due to the newly implemented regulations. Without net neutrality, providers will have the freedom to make the business environment more challenging, leaving small to medium businesses in tight corners, with significantly less access to the vast internet audience they could previously put their marketing canvas in front of. This will make competition for SMBs a lot stiffer, and depending on the resource available, possibly even unreachable. Essentially, repealing net neutrality will offer the biggest shares of internet traffic to businesses that can dish out the most money.
Redefining Cellular Data
On a more recent note, the FCC will also be voting on a reclassification of cell phone data service as “broadband internet,” a move that would redefine high speed internet to include cell phone services. This decision could bring major changes to the telecommunications world, possibly leading to changes in mobility contracts and the way taxes are calculated in telecom. This could potentially open an entirely new can of worms, where often slower, more costly, and data-capped cell phone service is deemed as equivalent to a high speed internet connection. Enterprises, and SMBs in particular, could face further conflict depending on how FCC votes in February. Decision-makers will want to stay up to date on any changes made to mobile contracts and tax calculations following the vote. You might want to consider seeking out more long-term plans before changes are implemented, in order to lock down current plan options.
All in all, there will be a challenge in meeting the demands of ISPs for businesses in the process of, or still working up the ladder towards making a name for themselves. Content providers will face significant challenges in trying to match up to competition, particularly when coming up against large companies who are more than capable of paying fees and surcharges in order to get their content at the forefront of the market. With all of the changes to come, and the potential consequences to be faced by redefining cell phone data service, businesses will want to stay on top of all of the FCC’s decisions.
If you would like to learn more, or have any questions about IT, telecom, and cloud expense management, don’t hesitate to contact us.
AUTHOR: Victoria Lewin