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The Net Neutrality Debate

Net Neutrality is one concept that had kept people discussing about sometime back. The buzz about Net Neutrality started after the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality repeal. The repeal would naturally affect internet based start-ups, e-commerce stores and businesses that has a web presence to make it simple. It has the potential to affect even a company that has a static website.

What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality in lay man’s words can be said to be the principle abiding by which internet service providers should give access to all content and applications without any partiality to the source, products or websites.
The last year December saw the FCC repeal its net neutrality rules of 2015. This had earlier prohibited ISPs from either blocking or slowing down websites or apps as long as it displayed lawful content. It also prohibited ISPs from paid prioritization in exchange for a pricing that might be done for companies and consumers. Paid prioritization as the name suggests makes business slower for those who are paying less.
With Net Neutrality repeal the whole concept of paid prioritization will change given that it is the ISPs that would hold the right to create differently priced internet packages that are based on the content that users wish to access. However, the consumers on premium packages would have the access to all sites at normal speeds.

How will it affect a Business?
Businesses big and small both will be affected by it. Every business has a digital presence. Almost every form of marketing and commerce is done on the internet. It is important that all businesses maintain a good internet presence to have that kind of popularity that can make every visitor a loyal customer. The fact that a lack of net neutrality will give charge of a business website to ISPs will mean that businesses all over will need to pay to have their websites run at a normal speed. This might not be much of a problem for the already established big platforms but for other companies, this will surely affect business.
Let us take a look at the three main ways that it might affect small businesses.

1. Organic and Paid Traffic:
Marketing has been the main force that enhanced a business’ popularity in the market online. There have been many companies that based its marketing on organic and paid traffic. The speed of a site plays a very important role in traffic acquisition.
In the world of internet speed, if a site takes 2 seconds to load, then naturally the average bounce rate would be 9.6 percent. If a site takes 4 seconds to load then, the bounce rate would double up to be 17.1 percent. Paid prioritization would make businesses have slower websites comparatively. This would result in many visitors leaving even before a page can load.
This would lead to a high bounce rate which would make google rank a business lower in Google Search Rankings. The slow page speed and the minimal time that is spent on a page will affect SEO negatively.
Those businesses who have ads as the main source of traffic would suffer too. The paid prioritization would slow down a business website’s landing pages too. This would also lead to a business spending a huge amount of money on ads that visitors click but do not wait to hear what it says because of the poor speed.

2. Conversions:
Businesses will see lower conversions. It is natural that a slow website would lead to fewer conversions. Slower conversions will directly affect the revenue that a business had the potential to make. This is something that makes businesses think that it is in fact meaningless to have a website at all. Lower conversions would not only affect e-commerce businesses but will also affect the SaaS companies trying to get sign-ups on their websites.

3. Low Performance and User Experience:
The blocking and slowdown will naturally affect the internet-based software and all mobile applications. SaaS tools, audio/chat/video communications tools, Internet-of-Things, all of these will be affected by ISPs taking charge. This will lead to many applications being blocked or not functioning properly. There had been violations earlier too.
For example AT&T had blocked Facetime unless the users upgraded their plans. Verizon also had earlier blocked Google Wallet to promote its own payment service. The repeal will now allow to renew these practices.

ISPs might Target Small Businesses
ISPs might target the small businesses initially. It might try to get access fees from companies that deliver traffic for many other sites. Companies that have a contract with traditional webhosts to connect to larger internet and consumer broadband networks will be targeted.
ISPs will target these intermediaries because one can get payment simply through these companies.

The Good News
There are many companies that are now opposing paid prioritization including the giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon. The effectiveness of the policy depends on how much support it gets. The fact that many states and corporations are standing against it gives out a shimmer of hope to small companies.

Big Organisations can also contribute to spread this shimmer of hope across the world by being a part of the opposition campaign. Spread awareness. Talk to your consumers and local business groups. Burger King had done a video on the effect of net neutrality. Track your social media followers and put up videos that educate them about net neutrality. A small business can also take the issue to a local political representative or support other groups, etc.
Net Neutrality can really damage businesses that have an online presence. The effect will be felt more by the small businesses because they do not have the money to cover the bumps that net neutrality might bring to their business. The fact that many people are opposing paid prioritization, there is this shimmer of hope that seems to grow big. Join the group that supports net neutrality and give yourself a chance to win.

About the author

SPI Group

An integrated platform created to serve entrepreneurs and service providers. SPI engages with over 100,000 Entrepreneurs & Senior decision makers through a unique combination of cutting edge business magazines, high profile B2B summits and conferences, strategic alliances with Govt, business associations and government bodies. SPI also leverages the power of digital marketing and social media.

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