Net Neutrality Changes Impact Small Businesses

Net neutrality refers to the idea that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) grant equal access to everything on the internet, regardless of website content or the source of a particular website.

Net neutrality helps puts small businesses and large corporation on the same playing field by offering the same opportunities when it comes to the internet.

However, new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, may push changes to these laws that could lead to corporate bidding for internet data and speed prioritization, which could be a detriment to small business owners.

Current Net Neutrality Laws

Currently, it is illegal for ISPs to discriminate services based on customer or the nature of the goods. This has thus far helped keep the internet as a level playing field.

F0rmer chairman of the FCC, Thomas Wheeler, largely supported net neutrality laws. In March 2016, for example, Wheeler created a set of guidelines to deny ISPs the right to track their users’ search history in order to sell the information to advertisers.

Less than a year into his term, however, Pai appears to be moving aggressively to rid the FCC of the previous chairman’s actions.

What changes could impact small businesses?

One possible change is allowing ISPs like Comcast or Charter Spectrum to limit the data and speeds available to particular online content. If ISPs gain this ability, they will be able to charge websites for data prioritization. This prioritization would allow a website’s users to have high internet speeds while browsing that site.

Under this scenario, if you are a small business owner that relies heavily on your website to bring in business, a company like Comcast may ask you to pay a hefty fee for data prioritization. The data prioritization would allow your customers to browse your site at high speeds.

While you may not be able to make those payments, multi-million dollar competitors, e.g. Walmart, that have plenty of funds would pay to make sure their website speeds are consistent.

It is important for small business owners to protect their interests by staying informed. Read about the issues that could most directly affect you and if you see anything that you don’t agree with and you think will do more harm than good, make a call to your state representatives.

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