What is “Net Neutrality?”
A lot has been said about the issue of “Net neutrality” (or more correctly, “Internet neutrality”) since the term “Internet” was first used in 1974. The history of the Internet is full of technical terms and concepts and involves worldwide agencies, corporations and organizations, but one thing was always in the forefront of the planning and implementation; Service providers should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or modes of communication.
What is the problem?
The United States Government has recently changed all that. The FCC has stated repeatedly that their proposed regulations and those recently enacted will not affect consumers. But the FCC, being a government entity, is prone to saying things a bit remote from the truth. New FCC rules effectively put an end to net neutrality – the concept that all network data is equal. What has worked flawlessly and without complaints from anyone since the inception of the Internet has become null and void thanks to a lawsuit against the FCC by Verizon.
For the simplest explanation, follow the money. That almost always works.
The new FCC rules allow companies like Verizon, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and, in the interest of fairness, MomAndPop.com, to pay network providers to give their content a higher priority. In other words, contrary to what has always been the case, companies can now pay for higher priority and therefor higher speed and response time to their sites. Follow the money.
I’m just a user. Why do I care?
If the new regulations go into full effect, Internet users worldwide will see their service affected. Amazon will be fast. The MomAndPap.com you like to buy from will be slow. YouTube will be serving video at a preferred rate, the cute puppies pictures that your breeder put up will be slower to load. Almost all content will be prioritized by how much money the website owner pays to their provider.
How about the site owners?
The impact on you, the small website owner could be significant if not severe. This is especially true if you are selling products or services. You will probably suffer a double hit.
The first impact is fairly obvious. Remember that today’s technology permits network providers to know whether you’re a personal website, an eCommerce site, streaming video or just about anything else. If Amazon can afford to pay for a higher priority than you can (and that will probably be the case) your website will be slower and less responsive. Guess who gets the business? If you are trying to display video on your site, and you can’t (or don’t) pay up, you won’t get the priority that YouTube paid for; Your video might be more like a series of disjointed stills. You may have to pay premiums to get your site seen.
The second hit on the average website owner is a little less obvious. I, as a web hosting service provider, may have to pay a premium to my provider to remain competitive on two fronts. If DogHouseHosting.com (the site that sells my service) is slower than my competitor’s, nobody will find me. I might be forced to pay my provider for higher priority in order to get customers. If the service that I provide (YOUR website) is slow, you might go to someone else. I might be forced to pay for that higher priority to keep customers.
In either of these cases, I, or whoever provides your web hosting service, will be passing those costs on to you. Our margins are too low not to.
For even more on the new rules, check this Huffington Post article or Google “Net Neutrality.”