We’ve heard from many of you expressing concern regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality vote this week. This issue is a top priority for Magneti, and we hope to support you as we learn more about the implications of the possible change.
It’s likely that yesterday’s ruling will become a long legal battle, so there won’t be any overnight changes to your website or any site, application or content on the internet. This net neutrality repeal is in its infancy.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality was initiated to keep the internet open to all users and digital content providers. Internet service providers (ISPs), like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, treat all online content equally, meaning no websites, apps, videos, etc., are given special treatment in regards to accessibility and site speed. Regardless of where the content is hosted, consumers can access online content fairly.
To be clear: the ISP currently allows all traffic to be served equally. That doesn’t mean, however, that all sites load equally as fast. We have a role in helping boost site speed based on how it’s built/coded.
What Does Yesterday’s Ruling Mean for My Company’s Site?
If the net neutrality repeal is upheld, websites may end up needing to pay ISPs to ensure that their content is accessible to consumers. In this way, ISPs will be able to decide which websites, applications and content succeed, meaning that websites who pay will be given a leg up against websites who cannot afford to pay. Websites will not be treated equally. We’re still not sure of the pace or depth of this happening, but is a clear possibility.
Think about it this way – cars on the highway represent websites on the internet. Net neutrality is the idea that there is one type of lane on the highway, and cars can travel at whatever speed they wish. Repealing net neutrality means that the highway is separated into fast and slow lanes, and the highway can charge cars if they want to access the fast lane. So, cars that pay go in the fast lane, while cars with less money will be stuck in traffic. Highways can also restrict certain lanes to certain cars, and they can do so legally, provided proper disclosure. Like the HOV lane, but for all your cat videos.
If the net neutrality repeal remains in its current format, we may likely see the implementation of tiered content packages similar to what we see in cable television – a lot of players and a high barrier to entry. Content would be bundled and priced in certain ways. If consumers frequent social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, they could pay ISPs for a social package, or if they liked to watch TV shows on Netflix or Hulu, they could pay for a video-oriented package. Websites would have to pay to be included in these bundles. Over time, the greater barriers to entry could stifle innovation from smaller startups unable to enter the mainstream market. This ruling could mean that sites that don’t pay up will see an impact on their SEO and traffic performance. But, there are a lot of scenarios in which this doesn’t happen.
You Won’t See Major Changes Overnight
Yesterday’s decision is the beginning of a long legal battle. Net neutrality supporters, like Netflix, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon, plan to oppose this order and fight for net neutrality aggressively via the judicial system. Some companies, like Comcast, have pledged to not discriminate – they will keep their internet the same as it is now, and not alter consumer’s abilities to access and use the internet. (Then why fight to remove net neutrality in the first place, then? That’s a whole different discussion.)
Many large companies have vowed to take this issue to court, which would delay the repeal roll-out. No need to panic.
Nothing likely changes while the order is being fought in court. If the court grants a stay, then the net neutrality rules remain in place during the lawsuit proceedings. If the court does not grant a stay, then the repeal order is in place during the lawsuit proceedings. If that happens, ISPs are unlikely to make any significant changes that could negatively impact their case in the lawsuit. This court battle could last well into 2019.
Meanwhile, 2018 midterm elections will be taking place, which could change the political makeup of Congress, potentially leading to redrafted laws for the FCC regarding carrier oversight. This early / mid 2019 timeline leads up to an important 2020 presidential election, which may also result in delays on an FCC rewrite.
Senators are also in the process of introducing a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act which would roll back the FCC’s repeal. It’s not certain to pass, but with a significant amount of bipartisan support of net neutrality, there is a definite possibility.
What is Magneti Doing About This?
We’ll be watching it closely to see how it begins affecting our clients traffic (if at all), immediately triage issues and build plans to work around it to ensure continued growth.
Bottom line: we’re not freaking out about it, and you don’t need to either. We’ll discuss with each client one-on-one directly in the next month.
Please reach out if you have any questions. We’re here to help!