For anyone out there who doesn’t know what Net Neutrality is: first of all, you’re not alone. Second, Net Neutrality is a good thing. And third, it’s time for you to wake up, because Net Neutrality affects you personally, and it’s in big trouble right now.
In December, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to dismantle Net Neutrality rules and regulations that govern access to the Internet. We have grown accustomed to these rules over the years and have come to depend on them every single time we go online.
So what is Net Neutrality?
That’s exactly what I asked Google, and therein lies the irony.
Google’s dictionary describes Net Neutrality as “the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.”
In other words, Net Neutrality is Internet freedom. It’s what protects your ability to access what makes the Internet the Internet—everything.
Without Net Neutrality, my Internet service provider now has the legal grounds to control the results of my Google search. And while they probably wouldn’t ever hide a Google dictionary definition, an Internet provider might prioritize traffic to websites they own, throttle traffic to competitors, or even block traffic to websites that share articles about the importance of Net Neutrality.
At the very least Internet service providers could charge me a sum of money at their choosing just to submit my Google search, which in turn would probably deter me from ever educating myself on the controversial topic in the first place.
Another scenario that might hit closer to home for all of us is with Netflix. Imagine logging in for your next big binge only to realize that the number of movies or show episodes you’re allowed to watch per month is now limited by the type of package you choose to purchase—not from Netflix but from your Internet provider. I don’t know about you guys, but that’s where this guy draws the line.
Here’s the “good” news.
Google and Netflix are highly unlikely to ever be affected by a loss of Net Neutrality (deep exhale). That’s because Google and Netflix have deep pockets, meaning they can afford to pay Internet providers in order to ensure their customers receive full access to those companies’ services. But what about the other guys?
Cue the bad news.
On the other side of the coin, losing Net Neutrality could be a huge blow for small businesses and startups. It could also be devastating for every marketer’s favorite buzzword, innovation. Without Net Neutrality, competition in the marketplace would essentially be boiled down to “whoever can pay the most wins”—eliminating the ability for emerging companies to get in front of their potential customers and killing the need for established companies to improve and evolve.
From an advertising standpoint, it could prevent the paid media campaigns we create for our clients from ever reaching the target audiences as Internet providers might substitute our clients’ ads for those of the competitors—all for a price. That’s when this whole thing really hits the fan.
But there’s no need to panic.
While the possibilities are wild and disturbing, the Internet is not going to die overnight—if ever. Everything at this point is pure speculation, and we have no idea how it will all play out.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we should sit back and assume this will all work itself out either. Moving forward we have to stay awake, we have to stay informed, and we have to keep talking about the importance of Net Neutrality. The only way this thing will ever get out of hand is if we let it—so let’s not do that.
Keep calm and Internet on, y’all.
(And thanks, Garry Hornbuckle, for letting me pick your brain. Cheers.)