What Does the End of Net Neutrality Mean for Small Businesses?

Net NeutralityThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently voted to end rules that governed how internet service providers (ISPs) provide services to consumers.

As the New York Times reported,

The agency scrapped the so-called net neutrality regulations that prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content. The federal government will also no longer regulate high-speed internet delivery as if it were a utility, like phone service.

According to ABC News,

Net neutrality is the principle that ISPs treat all content equally and not give preference to some digital content providers. That means the consumer can load every website, app, video, .gif, etc., equally, regardless of where the content is hosted. For example, an ISP may not charge more for sites that stream movies or promote a specific agenda.

Public Utility

In 2015, at the request of then-President Obama, the FCC voted to classify consumer broadband services as a "public utility" under the 1934 Communications Act. This means that ISPs are regulated like other public utilities.

The FCC's chairman, Ajit Pai, claimed that the repeal of net neutrality would benefit consumers because broadband providers, such as Comcast and AT&T, would be free to offer them more service options.

According to the Times,

Critics of the changes say that consumers will have more difficulty accessing content online and that start-ups will have to pay to reach consumers.

Effect on Small Businesses

According to another article in the Times,

Many entrepreneurs worried that, without net neutrality provisions, internet providers would wield their increased power to control how businesses reach consumers.

For example, research by a Google subsidiary found that if consumers have to wait more than three seconds for a mobile site to load they'll give up their search 53% of the time — potentially causing small businesses to lose sales.

Fast Lane

According to the Times,

Critics of the F.C.C. proposal say internet service providers could manipulate traffic speeds to establish a “fast lane” of sorts or cap or block access to certain sites, charging fees to lift the restrictions. Small enterprises would struggle to pay, leaving them at a commercial disadvantage, they said.

A slower or more expensive internet could also hurt freelancers who work online in the "gig economy."

Identity Theft

It's unclear when the changes will take effect. Several public interest and industry groups have threatened to file suit to block the changes.

It was also revealed that comments in favor of the repeal of net neutrality were filed by bots using stolen identities.

Fortune reported that "more than half of the 21.7 million public comments supporting the rule change were likely faked."

Many of the fake "supporters" of the repeal were dead people. Even former President Obama was falsely listed as a repeal supporter.

If you want to check whether your own name was used in support of ending net neutrality (without your permission) you can check here.

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