Recently, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has finally decided that Net neutrality rules, adopted four years ago to help small websites compete with larger ones, are defunct. The court struck down Net neutrality.
However, you may not know what that means, and what does it mean for the average small business owner, client, or general web browser? It’s true that the court decision and the law itself was complicated, however this single decision has the ability to impact everything we do and see online. Below, we’ve listed some frequently asked questions as well as the effects it may have on your small business.
So What is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality is a nickname for a set of rules called “The Open Internet”. These regulations were supposed to provide fairness among all websites. It demands that ISPs treat all websites with the same level of respect, meaning one website cannot load faster on a broadband connection simply because they paid the ISP to make that happen. In addition, a website cannot run slower simply because it uses more bandwidth than another website (YouTube and Netflix are two examples of data eaters because both stream content without a required download), and a website that consumes more data cannot be charged by an ISP to maintain a decent speed.
Secondly, the Open Internet laws require that all ISPs are upfront to all of their customers about how “too much traffic” is handled, and where you are routed when there are too many people online consuming too much data.
A few days ago, Net neutrality was discontinued on a 2-1 decision in court.
Didn’t This Already Happen in 2010?
Not exactly. In 2010, The FCC’s Open Internet laws were challenged by Comcast, which had been throttling the use of BitTorrent and other illegal websites to control their traffic. It was decided that the FCC couldn’t enforce Net neutrality, but the agency penalized Comcast for picking and choosing which data it throttled. After this, formal Net neutrality rules were formed, and it is these rules that were challenged in court.
What’s the Biggest Way This Could Affect My Internet Use as a Personal User?
It’s important to know that things for you, as a regular user, probably won’t change overnight. Instead, you’ll see changes over time as long as the court ruling holds. However, provided that the court ruling does hold, you’ll begin to see a different sort of Internet service business model that will affect you in the office and in home.
One of those models could be simply charging big companies, like Amazon, Netflix, or Google, fees to access a certain ISP’s network. If the company didn’t pay, then the ISP (such as Verizon, Comcast, or Time Warner cable) could simply block the website until fees were paid or, in Netflix’ case, make it so slow that it would be impossible to stream videos. In addition, an ISP could prioritize certain websites in exchange for money or special services. So, Comcast could approach Hulu and tell them that they’ll make their website lightning fast if Hulu gives Comcast users rights to certain TV shows or movies.
These changes will ultimately increase the costs to operate an ISP, meaning that those price changes can and will be passed on to the consumer in due time. ISPs argue that this will allow them to open up new forms of income, thus defraying the cost of being an ISP, which will lower prices for the customer in the long run.
How Does this Affect My Small Business?
So far, the way the court decision will affect smaller businesses is uncertain. However, it is possible an ISP can charge any number of small businesses to keep the speed of their website up to par with competitors. Your small business may also get charged for prioritized Internet access, so if you want your broadband Internet to load as quickly as you’d like it to so you can keep up with customer orders and phone calls, you may see yourself paying more in the future.
However, it’s unlikely that the battle with Net neutrality is over just yet, and there are still many unanswered questions that will be covered in months to come.
Image Credit: Save the Internet