The Internet makes starting and managing businesses easy, be it contacting the client or delivery of services and products, everything is possible from a notebook, tablet, even smartphone. Features of world-wide-web aka internet are the same for all of us, we can open the same website that you can, without paying anything extra.But, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may end this soon. They have already voted to make some rules wherein broadband providers will start charging higher fees for better speed and suppress the provided content. In simple terms, there is a threat to net neutrality, which will have an effect on small businesses, in fact it will affect every business, all industries, employees, and owners. Change of internet functionality means a change in business. In this post, we will only focus on small businesses as they are the projection of every country’s future.
What is net neutrality?
In the current scenario, internet service providers (ISP) grants equal access to all the online contents regardless of their sources, which is referred as net neutrality or Open Internet Order of 2015. It has three key rules for ISPs.
a. No Blocking
b. No Throttling
c. No Paid Prioritization
The process puts both small and big corporations on the same playground in terms of online opportunities. Many startups like Farmlogs developed and gained success because of open internet. Nowadays, people with ideas can easily start a business as they have access to unlimited online resources and services. Social media and digital ads have changed the idea of marketing. A reliable product or service and emerge from anywhere across the globe and can reach national or international consumers.
Current laws of net neutrality
President Obama had a thought that everyone, all businesses – small or large should have similar access to the internet. He took an extra step and deployed Common Carrier law to the ISPs. CCL made illegal for the service providers to discriminate based on users or the content they are accessing. In 2013, Mr. Obama elected Thomas Wheeler as the chairman of FCC who later restricted service providers to track the search history of their users and selling the same to the advertisers.
Disadvantages of the bill
Most of the Americans and Republicans support net neutrality, but FCC wants to revoke the same and states that internet is a utility like electricity and water that must be used in a restrictive way. Ajit Pai, appointed by Donald Trump as the new chairman of FCC is trying to change or take away parallel behavior of internet, which will be a detriment to the small businesses. End of net neutrality rule will allow ISPs to raise prices, harm small businesses, slow traffic or even control information.
While some users can circumvent ISP bandwidth throttling through VPNs, the technology has still not saturated all internet users. Therefore, if ISPs will control the content and speed, they can charge for each website. Small organizations with fewer financial resources will not be able to compete with large competitors. They will lack behind in terms of speed and eventually will be pushed out of the market. If not pushed out then they will have fewer chances to grow further.
Imagine being told by AT&T that you have to pay some hefty amount if you want the users to reach your website. Small firms may fail to do that. On the other hand, bigger firms will be able to pay the amount to make sure that their website is working consistently. Example, if consumers visit a website and it takes forever to load then they are less likely to continue with the transaction or services. This scenario can be presumed only for organizations will low financial strength.
We had a conversation with a small accommodation owner at Harvard. She stated that most of the travelers plan their tour online. Around 60-70 percent reservations come through the website. Without net neutrality, internet service providers can slow down or even block her website if added payments are not made. Such small business already has a small presence, which will shrink further and eventually they will sink.
In addition, there are countries with one active service provider. If your start-up is disrupting their business or giving tough competition to them, they can ask you for ridiculous charges and ultimately kill your business. They can make a profit from their parent company but startups will lose. Scary, isn’t it? Either this will escort us into a new age of information transfer or an unpleasant situation of deception and control.
Positive points of the bill
a. According to many, the reversal of net neutrality will allow service providers to invest more in the development of services and infrastructure resulting in a faster and advanced internet. ISPs are unable to upgrade the network because the profit is less. They cannot divide the finance towards any new technology or innovation.
b. As per the bill filed by FCC, the market has not gained anything since the Open Internet Order of 2015, nor the service providers have really lost anything. Overall, the net neutrality was not “that” beneficial for the businesses or the consumers.
c. The bill is against the monstrous corporations who consume a high amount of data and pays less for the same. Example, Netflix is paying less in return of the endless gigabyte absorption, but the case must be opposite. The company should pay an extra amount for the data packets ingestion increases.
What can be done by small businesses?
Net neutrality war is not over and the business owners who will face troubles after its lack can take part in the legal battle. If Congress understands that most of the businesses are not agreeing with the revoke, they can decline FCC’s bill.
As stated, the legal war is still in progress, so no one can tell whether net neutrality goes out of the picture or internet access will remain the way it is now. But, if Congressmen decides, it can be revoked legally. Small business will be disrupted everywhere and if you are one of them who can be harmed from the absence of net neutrality, it is better to keep checking the news. If possible, stand for your expression and thoughts.