Protest at the White House for Net Neutrality ~ Photo by Joseph Gruber

Net neutrality. It’s all of your business.

The removal of net neutrality regulations may have some serious ramifications on your business, your life, and the open Internet we rely on every day.

Major phone and cable companies, our internet service providers that we all know and love (Comcast, Charter, ATT, Verizon) are already dominating the communications market on a massive scale. They’re also spending hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to put an end to an important regulation called net neutrality.

Cable companies have looked at the money corporations like Google and Facebook make from targeted advertising, and feel like they deserve some of the enormous profit as well. These cable companies routinely break the law, Comcast being fined $2.3 Million last year for charging clients for services they did not subscribe to. Not exactly the type of corporation we want having tighter control of our internet usage and privacy.

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, or medium of communication. What this means is that corporations cannot pay off ISPs for their own website or application to be sent into your home faster than your small business, start-up, or a 10-year-old who just launched a website for their school science fair.

Right now it’s an even playing field, but that is under threat.

“Cable companies cannot decide what online stores you shop at, and no company can pay for online priority over their competitors.” — Barack Obama

The net neutrality rules approved by the FCC in 2015 were enacted to protect the open internet, and allow equal access to all websites and apps. The FCC is a five-member group, usually changing in party affiliation depending on the president. With the new administration and the FCC Chairperson Ajit Pai now proposing to reverse position on net neutrality, these protections are now under serious threat.

The removal of net neutrality would have a serious effect on the web, and would undoubtably change online marketing in enormous ways. So, it’s an issue all of us need to become more aware of.

Imagine if your direct competitors could pay off Internet Service Providers to have their websites load faster, or become more accessible, than yours?

Right now, everyone in the United States with an Internet connection has just as much access to your business website as they do to Google or Facebook. These tech giants already have a leg up on your business in the cyber world because of the amount of money they can dump into advertising, tricked-out servers, and the immense popularity of their platforms. Imagine if your direct competitors could pay Internet Service Providers to have their websites load faster, or become more accessible, than yours?

Seattle protest in 2015 for net neutrality ~ Photo by Rick Barry of Broken Shade Photo

Can your website survive in a closed internet?

In the competitive landscape, speed is everything, and if you’re a small business, you may never be able to pay Comcast or Charter to transmit your site’s content as fast your multi-national, multi-billion dollar competitors.

Faster content has a much larger effect on website visitors than most people realize. People leave websites that don’t load fast enough. If people click on your eCommerce shop and perceive images loading slowly, they will click away, and you lose the sale. When people look at your customer case studies or portfolio when deciding whether or not to hire you for the job, and it struggles to load, they’re going elsewhere.

I worry not just about the awesome, open Internet I use every day, but about all of the small businesses I work with that depend on it.

If your business is funneled into the “slow-lane” on the information superhighway, it would become impossible to compete with larger corporations that can afford to pay off ISPs for better internet visibility in the “fast-lane”, in a market where small businesses are relying more and more on a solid local and national web presence.

A step in the wrong direction.

Last week, lawmakers voted to remove a set of privacy rules that prohibited ISPs from selling or sharing individual web browsing history without a consumer’s consent, an attempt to reverse what they deemed as a “government overreach” that holds back business and investments. It was signed by the president last night.

If the new FCC leadership destroys net neutrality regulations next, our beloved ISPs will be able to throttle website speeds, block certain websites, and give visibility priority to the highest bidder. With the Internet always an arm’s reach away these days, this is a huge issue for small businesses trying to compete in a world that is relying more and more on the Net for information.

2015 net neutrality advocates gather in support of federal regulations.

The future is dark.

Right now, ISPs have a monopoly on your neighborhood. In the long term, the only way to fight Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner is for cities to build local private networks, called dark fiber networks, that ISPs cannot control. There are some cities already doing this.

Building a dark fiber network is by no means free, and involves expensive city planning and foresight. It also involves fighting an uphill battle against ISPs that constantly attempt to quell these efforts politically. Right now it seems damn-near impossible to fight this battle without federal regulation.

“This is something that is popular, that people have had for two years, and taking it away is going to have a lot of blowback,” -Gigi Sohn, counselor to previous FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler.

Whether you are a small business owner who wants a fair shot at competitive web presence, or just a citizen reliant on the Internet to spread ideas and share information, you should now consider the Internet service providers to be your enemy.

It truly is a difficult time in American history on all sides of the political spectrum. The increased polarization from two wildly contrasting political parties has caused rifts among friends, family, co-workers, and fellow Americans. It has become increasingly difficult to find common ground with others on issues that should be agreed upon by both parties.

Net neutrality is a topic I am very passionate about as a web designer and digital marketer that works intimately with small businesses, and I would hope that the president and his administration would recognize that fair competition and privacy on the Internet is extremely important for Republicans, Democrats, and everyone caught in the middle.

Originally published at