What Net Neutrality Means for your Website
You may have heard a lot of talk recently about net neutrality. It’s a concept almost as old as the internet itself, although the phrase was not used until 2003. But is it important to a small business website? Should you worry about it? Or learn more about it? This article will help explain what net neutrality means for your website.
What is Net Neutrality?
To understand net neutrality let’s look at one of the most popular websites on the internet, Facebook. You can use any broadband connection to access Facebook at the moment. That includes your own broadband at home, Wi-Fi networks that you connect to when you are out-and-about, and data services on your mobile phone. You can do this because of net neutrality.
There are a number of ways that accessing Facebook might change if we abandoned the principle of net neutrality. First, your broadband supplier might charge you more to access Facebook. This would work like a cable television subscription – if you don’t pay the premium for Facebook (or any other website that they decide to charge extra for) they would block it from your house.
Another way that things might change if net neutrality no longer applied is that websites would have to pay a premium to broadband providers for good quality access. So in the Facebook example they would pay the broadband providers to give them priority access to user’s homes, businesses etc. Websites that do not pay the premium might get blocked or slowed down. This opens up two main problems:
- Extra business expenses are always passed to the consumer or end-user
- It also limits choice as your broadband supplier would become the gatekeeper deciding on what websites that you can access based on their commercial interests
So net neutrality is a principle that means all data on the internet is treated the same. Without it broadband providers could control what you can access.
Okay, Got It. But What Does It Mean For My Website?
As a small business website net neutrality levels the playing field. It also ensures that your potential customer base is as wide as possible. And it means that broadband providers cannot charge their customers for something that you created – your content or your business.
Let’s look at this in more detail:
- Level Playing Field – without net neutrality big companies could choke most of the small businesses on the internet. Take Amazon as an example. In a world without net neutrality it could theoretically pay broadband providers enough money to stop them allowing you to access any website that sells products that are also sold by Amazon. Amazon would probably not do this in reality but it is an example of the potential. In terms of accessing your website, net neutrality keeps you and your competitors, including big players like Amazon, at the same level.
- Charging Customers – how to charge and who to charge for your website / content / product / service is a decision that only you should take. Net neutrality ensures that broadband providers cannot piggyback on your success to make a few extra dollars for something they did not contribute in creating. If it did happen some people would simply not pay which would reduce your website’s potential customer base.
Net neutrality is a unique principle because the internet is a relatively new platform. Some people compare it to buying cable television packages but it is not the same because no one owns the internet. Cable companies, on the other hand, own their networks. A better comparison is to look at electricity suppliers. Imagine if your electricity supplier decided to charge you more because you are a Game of Thrones fan! Unless you pay a premium, the company could interrupt your electricity while your favorite show was on.
Isn’t this a ridiculous thought? And so is a world without net neutrality.
Editor's Note: The FCC is accepting comments on the issue for a limited time at http://www.fcc.gov/comments. Please comment if you would like to voice in on the issue.
Watch this video from "Last Week Tonight" for more information (presented in an entertaining way) on Net Neutrality also known as Open Internet or as the Former Daily Show correspondant John Oliver Calls It on His New HBO Show: "Cable Company *******"
Warning: This Video Contains Some Adult Language