The plan by the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to end the net neutrality regulations developed by the previous Administration is generating intense response across social media as well as news coverage. Whatever the outcome of the policy debate, it could have a significant impact on every brand’s digital strategy. If you haven’t been thinking about how you are going to prepare for this change, now is the time.
The debate over who controls the Internet is more than a decade old, and the carefully laid plans to implement a net neutrality system across the digital landscape has been thrown into turmoil by the new head of the FCC’s announcement that he would reverse these regulations has everyone scrambling. The depth of this issue and the debate can get complicated, but at heart, it’s about whether internet service providers such as Verizon and Comcast can charge different prices to different customers depending on their bandwidth requirements. On the surface, that seems like a reasonable request. After all, if you need more bandwidth, why should you pay extra for that?
On the other side, those in favor of net neutrality, are the content providers, including Google, Facebook, and Netflix, who stream high content including video that requires increased bandwidth. Their fear is that the service providers can discriminate against their content by charging more while favoring their own competitive content offerings, creating an unfair playing field. Regardless of how you feel about net neutrality and what the final outcome of this dispute will be, the FCC’s move could mean a lot to your digital strategy.
For example, if you have e-commerce capabilities that you are planning on expanding, or if you include high-quality video as part of your website content, you may be facing an entirely new regime of costs to have the same quality and speed of delivery. And as numerous studies have shown, slower website speeds, load times and latency all can have an impact on online sales. The Internet Association, which represents Amazon, Dropbox, eBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Uber, and Spotify, issued a strong statement this week criticizing the FCC’s move. In reality, those companies have the resources to purchase the faster services. Other Internet-reliant brands may not have that same luxury.
As Jason Citron, co-founder and CEO of the video game-centric chat and video-conferencing app Discord, recently told Wired Magazine, “Net neutrality is incredibly important for small startups like Discord because all internet traffic needs to be treated as equal for us all to have access to the same resources as the big companies.”
Nolan T. Jones, managing partner and co-creator of Roll20, a video-conferencing and community platform for tabletop role-playing gamers, went ever farther. “We believe this would affect more than just our voice and video equipment, but our entire ability to host folks interacting across our services,” says Nolan T. Jones, managing partner and co-creator of Roll20, a video-conferencing and community platform for tabletop role-playing gamers.
The new rules will most likely hit mobile apps first, as many internet services include limits on data use for mobile platforms. Having a solid mobile strategy in place that recognizes these limitations will be key.