Net Neutrality Guide for Small Business Owners
Net neutrality is about to impact every small business in a big way. Maybe.
Net neutrality is a hot topic and chances are you have at least heard the term mentioned. The reality is, industry experts are still exploring how net neutrality will affect businesses. So naturally, it’s hard for busy entrepreneurs to understand what is going on. But the bottom line is, this is a significant topic, and every small business owner needs to consider the ramifications.
To understand net neutrality, let’s start from the beginning. An Internet Service Provider or ISP maintains internet access for all your devices plus controls the speed that content loads. Your mobile phone network, home Internet provider, and work Internet provider are all controlled by one of the major ISPs. These ISPs include companies like Verizon, Comcast, Cox, T-Mobile, and AT&T.
Net neutrality is the idea that ISP customers–anyone who uses the internet–will receive access to the world wide web equally. Your internet speed and access to content are consistent and independent of your ISP’s agenda. Initially, net neutrality discussions started in 2010, but nothing major happened for years.
Then in 2015, the Federal Communications Commission or FCC introduced the “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet” order. The goal of this initiative was to protect consumers from ISPs. The new rules for protecting and promoting an open Internet were:
Last week on December 14, the FCC rejected net neutrality and began what is now being called non-neutrality. In other words, the FCC will no longer enforce Internet Service Providers’ to comply with net neutrality.
The biggest questions looming now are:
With the FCC’s non-regulation of net neutrality, businesses are confused and concerned. No one can predict what the ISPs will do without net neutrality regulations. Small businesses don’t know the impact. And digital marketers are scrambling without any real direction or idea of the ramifications of a world without net neutrality. One thing that is for sure, non-neutral ISPs will make an impact.
This is not a doomsday, end of the internet kind of article. Hopefully, this article will help you prepare for the upcoming changes.
Here are some of the changes you may see, and how you can prepare your business for them.
If you’re like most business owners, you rely heavily on your websites and digital advertising to sell your products and services. According to government statistics, more than 23 million enterprises within the U.S. are a one-person business. For small companies, websites serve as their salesperson, their marketer, their receptionist, and their storefront. Websites essentially are the company.
Thus, Internet Service Providers are the backbone for most companies.
Now that Internet Service Providers can alter, limit, or edit the content their customers see on websites and in apps. Business owners and managers of all sizes need to be wary.
Under net neutrality, the FCC gives ISPs the authority to prioritize some information and deprioritize other data and websites. Deprioritization meant some data was delivered faster than others. High priority information like 911 requests was not slowed. Some traffic deserves to be a higher priority.
Significant proof exists that ISPs did more than prioritize emergency requests. In fact, ISPs repeatedly blocked or deprioritized content in favor of their own.
Tech startups and entrepreneurs should be aware that if you create a product in direct or even indirect competition with an ISP, you may be deprioritized. If you are deprioritized, people may not find you easily.
Another aspect that may impact your website’s visibility is speed throttling. This factor is similar to deprioritization, but with one specific difference. Throttling is slowing the data speed of a consumer. Since ISPs also provide mobile phone service, they run your mobile phone too.
You experience this if you have exceeded your data limit and the ISP slows your data download speed.
The problem is, ISPs also throttle internet speed on business accounts as well for purely capitalistic motives. The ISPs have complete control of business internet accounts. In fact, they almost hold companies captive.
In 2014, Comcast significantly throttled Netflix video speeds until Netflix agreed to pay more money. The whole scenario is frighteningly similar to the old mob strategy where businesses had to pay the mob to operate their store in the mob’s “territory.”
If history repeats itself, you need to prepare.
We all know how frustrating a slow website can be. In fact, visitors will not wait long for web pages to load. Your website must load in less than 3 seconds to keep a customer on the web page.
To make the situation even worse, website speed significantly affects your search engine page ranking. If Internet Service Providers control the download speed, they also can control your page ranking. It feels like ISPs have the advantage.
This article wasn’t written as a doomsday warning. While there are a lot of things that may seem frightening, many people and groups condemn the FCC’s decision last Thursday. This should give you hope.
A 14 year PPC, and SEO expert, Ben Tan, expressed his thoughts on how SEO will change under non-neutrality. Tan was confident “major search engines will continue trying to serve the best content for their to consumers, though they may face a difficult challenge in this new environment.”
He remains confident that while this may make digital marketing more difficult, Google and other major companies supporting net neutrality will find a way to allow users to promote their business in an equitable way.
Net neutrality is not dead. Many large companies and popular search engines are against non-neutrality. There is a lot of debate as to why these companies oppose this regulation repeal. For businesses the upheaval means that non-neutrality is still evolving. And at the minimum, non-neutrality will be clarified.
And the fight isn’t over. The net-neutrality repeal may not be effective for awhile. While we wait for the final decisions, there are a number of things you can do to voice your opinion.
Businesses, especially small businesses, need to be prepared for the big changes that may be heading your way.
Now, more than ever, you need to understand exactly where you are spending your marketing dollars and whether or not this money gets results. Take a closer look at your marketing by using tools like call tracking. Monitor the performance of each of your campaigns closely and make more educated decisions. It is important that you get a firm grasp on your digital marketing long before any changes take effect.
The future of the internet may seem foggy and feel as though it is out of your hands. But the future of your business, is one you can control. Make sure you enter this new year informed and prepared for whatever may come.
Let Convirza support you. Call a representative today and learn how Convirza call tracking and call analytics can help your company stay competitive and thrive in 2018.
Written by Michele Hironaka