What is Net Neutrality and How it Affects Small Business

May 13, 2014

Recently the subject of net neutrality has been the topic of many discussions on the U.S. forums and discussion boards. To first understand why many businesses are so upset about the subject, you have to understand what net neutrality is. To break it down to the most simple terms, your internet provider (ISP) allows you to access the web without any limitations as to what you can view online. All the websites ride the same highway to your computer, allowing you to visit any type of website that you want. Every site you visit is giving the same value as another, so those dog videos on YouTube are no less important than the blog posts you read from your favorite celebrity. Your Internet provider can not give preferential treatment to one site over another. Net neutrality in its basic form is the freedom of speech you are afforded when you go online.

The United States Federal Communications Commission is considering changing the foundation of net neutrality. They are entertaining the idea that certain companies are given access to a fast lane, which gets them more exposure when you are searching online. On the surface you might think this is in line with how those same corporate giants buy ad space on Google AdWords, getting them to the top of the paid search results for a given search query. The difference in this situation is that with your internet service provider there is only so much room on that information highway. If Facebook wants access to that fast lane, then their competition is going to have to travel on a much slower lane to reach you. No longer will all of these companies be traveling at the same Internet speed as with net neutrality.

The internet speed is basically a fixed sum game. If your competition can afford to pay to drive on the fast lane, then by default your small business gets put in the slow lane. The deeper the pockets of the company, the more competition they can speed past on the way to new customers. Right now many small bloggers and start up websites are afforded the exact same opportunity to reach an audience as the big corporations. The new plan being considered by the FCC will change the way the internet landscape is viewed forever. Those smaller companies will have to wait longer in line while the industry giants get the lion's share of the business.

This new plan doesn't seem fair to small business, and that is because it isn't. Those small businesses that were once able to compete against the giants in their niches are going to have an extremely tough time at reaching their target audience. The playing field will no longer be equal, it all comes down to who is spending the most money to ride by all the companies that cannot afford the faster ride. 

With the loss of net neutrality, future innovations from small companies will no longer exist. They will never be able to reach their intended market without having to come up with serious money. The only options that small business owners have to try and maintain the net neutrality they currently enjoy is to either email Tom Wheeler, the chair at the FCC, or to contact your state and local legislators and demand that this process is not allowed to pass.


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