The December 2017 decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to repeal net neutrality rules has sparked a flood of emotions and arguments on both sides of the aisle. Many supporters of net neutrality worry that repealing the regulations could pave the way for unfair practices by internet service providers, like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T. They envision providers segmenting or discriminating different kinds of traffic over the internet. That’s because previous net neutrality protections mainly designated broadband service providers as telecommunications companies, which meant they were subject to certain ground rules. Those rules barred internet service providers from slowing down content and giving ‘fast lane’ preference to individual customers. That might include preferential streaming speeds for big-name customers or those that pay more for a premier service to be delivered to end customers, like a Netflix, for example.
Those on the other side are happy with the repeal of net neutrality regulations primarily because they believe bureaucrats and legislators should keep their paws off the internet. They think the technology innovators know what’s best for their businesses and that they have the right to charge what they want for internet access when it comes to marketing their products or serving customers. If internet providers like Comcast want to charge a YouTube or Netflix more for ‘fast lane’ streaming service, for instance, that’s their prerogative. Many believe lowering regulations will also improve competition and allow telecom providers to innovate and expand, building out their infrastructures and getting more people online overall, including those in developing countries.
Wherever you stand on the net neutrality issue, most believe that the repeal of rules will have some impact on consumers and businesses. This might include content restrictions for certain broadband providers and higher prices for consumers to access certain websites. A hypothetical scenario often cited is where customers can only access YouTube if they have AT&T and pay an additional fee, for instance. This might be like how the NFL Network is only available for specialty tier of channels for Dish Network subscribers, instead of requiring that all Dish customers pay for it.
Business Impacts and What to do About it
Regarding the effect on businesses, the jury is still out. Marketing and advertising on popular sites like YouTube, Google or Facebook may look different in the coming years. If internet service providers start restricting access, running certain sites at certain speeds, or productizing access to websites based on tiered pricing, this may affect the number of views ads receive. Here are a few other important considerations for businesses:
- Streamlined management of multiple carriers- Businesses will also need to track internet service providers policies regarding what websites are supported. While there is still a lot to be sorted out, businesses can be certain that broadband providers will go through a ‘trial period’ where they introduce different options to see the response. It will be imperative for companies that do business online−which is pretty much everyone− to stay on top of these changes, including letters and communications they receive from providers.
- The need for more targeted marketing efforts- With these regulatory changes, it will become more critical to segment ads and target marketing efforts (i.e., ad campaigns on Hulu, Google, etc.) to specific buyers, according to target customers affinity for tiered broadband packages. This may require additional customer research to determine which customers are drawn to what broadband packages and what providers offer that access. And, because packages will continually change, it will be critical to collect timely customer data to determine preferences and broadband and viewing habits.
- Look for insight from experts- While it’s still unclear on the extent of the implications of the net neutrality repeal, or even whether the repeal will remain with current challenges to the FCC ruling in progress, it is clear that business will need additional help to sort through the changes. For companies doing business globally, the consequences are even more multifaceted. Changes to US rules could impact other countries’ regulations concerning how internet providers deliver bandwidth and content. Telecom managed service providers that can bridge this gap and help companies minimize telecom costs and maximize access to their content where they do business will become extremely valuable partners.
If you would like to learn how the repeal of net neutrality rules might impact your business, talk to Telapprise about a Baseline Assessment. We are a vendor-neutral telecom expert that help companies understand their existing telecom, cloud, and IT landscape. We’ll also help establish a path for navigating these new rules while looking to reduce telecom expenses and improve access to customers.