Are Small Businesses Ready for the Net Neutrality Rollback?
May 2, 2018
Small businesses might just lose their internet privileges.
In December 2017, the F.C.C. tabled legislation to rollback Obama-era net neutrality rules.
The rules were implemented to ensure internet providers couldn’t charge more for better, faster service. It also stopped providers from changing website delivery speeds, and charging users extra to see them.
Ultimately, it meant that everyone had the same level of internet access, no matter how deep their pockets were.
Late last year, the Federal Communications Commission proposed to undo these rules. They argued that doing so would increase the competitiveness of the market, and ultimately promote innovation in the space.
Sales, marketing, customer relations, and almost every other thing businesses have to do to survive is conducted online
But, what happens to small businesses?
In our digitized world, the internet has become central to business operations around the world. Sales, marketing, customer relations, and almost every other thing businesses have to do to survive is conducted online.
With these new rules in place, many small businesses fear disconnection.
Thankfully, while the new rules roll out on April 23, they may not affect users for a while.
So, when the time comes, how will it affect small businesses, and what can they do to stay afloat?
What it Means for SMBs
Under new net neutrality rules, internet providers will potentially have free reign to price their services how they see fit.
That means higher prices for higher speeds.
More than that, it also means that some content will have a paywall. Specifically, videos and articles could be priced out according to quality of content.
While this definitely sucks for any serial YouTube surfer, it also limits marketing opportunities for small businesses.
If customers meet a paywall before seeing content, it may drive them away.
As marketing continues to take over digital spaces, more small businesses are looking to social media and YouTube to contribute or host their campaigns.
In terms of customer base, this makes sense. Millennials are now the largest consumer market in the world, and they’re perusing the internet in one way or another.
But, if customers meet a paywall before seeing content, it may drive them away. Or, worse, it could damage the company’s image.
Even if small businesses are willing to pay, their customers may not. Or, if they do, they may not have the bandwidth to enjoy the high-quality content you spent so much time and money on.
Clearly, these outcomes are worst-case scenario. With the way the rules are setup though, it’s not impossible.
Small businesses need to prepare and be aware.
With higher prices may come lower internet speeds. But, not how you might think.
Currently, customers can choose and pay for “plans” from their service providers for higher or lower speeds, and more or less data allowance per payment cycle.
Basically, if you want to run YouTube faster, you pay for faster internet. If you’re only on there for Facebook and Twitter, stick to a lower-end plan.
Under the new F.C.C. regulations though, you may not have a choice.
If a provider wants to promote their own version of a website or service, it might be in their best interest to slow down the competition.
Depending on who your provider is, they may choose to slow down or speed up certain sites. Why? If a provider wants to promote their own version of a website or service, it might be in their best interest to slow down the competition.
So, what does that mean to small businesses?
In marketing terms, if your company uses YouTube or other online platforms for advertising, you may find your traffic reduced.
More importantly, your own website could slow down. What happens if a direct competitor of yours is in the pockets of your internet provider, and decides you’re a threat to business?
Now, these all seem like doomsday scenarios for sure. While it’s possible that this kind of thing could happen, it’s not the most likely. If you do want to prepare yourself, small businesses need to invest in omnichannel marketing.
Omnichannel marketing means advertising your product or service on multiple platforms to ensure diversity and safety. The idea is that if one website goes down, your entire marketing strategy doesn’t go with it.
Stay diligent. Who knows, maybe trying something new might grab a new customer or two
The internet is a haven for prospective business owners.
Today, businesses are created just by selling old textbooks on Amazon. With the new F.C.C. rules, we may lose the unique free-market economy the web has spun.
The net neutrality rollback makes it easier for the big guys to outdo everyone else on the internet. More money means more funding allocated to online marketing and other internet tools.
The best defense is a great offense. Look for something new, try different providers, and establish trust with a company.
The top 1% of business owners operating online will continue to dominate, while small businesses and entrepreneurs will struggle to create an online presence, let alone establish an ecommerce business.
But, while the internet’s free-market structure maybe in jeopardy, it may also be the only thing that can combat a rollback in net neutrality.
As Jon Healey from the LA Times reports, many providers have “pledged [recently] not to block or degrade its customers’ data, and not to prioritize any content, applications, or services.”
There are many services promising the same, and the big guys have noticed. Comcast and other providers have made similar promises, but the odds of that are a hard sell to many users.
Choice is the major power small businesses hold over internet providers. The best defense is a great offense. Look for something new, try different providers, and establish trust with a company.
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