Updated: Apr 26, 2019
What is Net Neutrality?
We’ve all been hearing a lot about net neutrality lately. Net Neutrality is the idea that internet service providers or ISPs (Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, to name a few) must provide the same access to all content on the web to its users, regardless of its source – referred to by some as the open internet. If net neutrality is rolled back, ISPs would have the ability to decide which content to serve to which users. This could potentially be based on tiers of service at different rates.
Who is proposing a rollback of Net Neutrality?
The current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman, Ajit Pai, is pursuing this agenda. Pai argues that the net neutrality does not constitute a free and open market on the internet and that by not incentivizing ISPs to expand, they may not bring service to low-income or underserved markets.
In particular, Pai does wants to rollback the Title II regulations adopted by the FCC in 2015. Most notably, the common carrier regulation within Title II, which gives the FCC authority to oversee the practices of ISPs.
How does Net Neutrality affect SEO & Web Marketing?
Net Neutrality is what gives anyone the pathway to getting in on the [internet] game. With Title II in place, consumers, business owners, website owners, web marketers and SEOs are protected from paid prioritization, which can ultimately give the upper hand to those with the cash to buy wider visibility. For example, without net neutrality, Comcast could decide to sell tiered service that only allows access to certain search engines or websites to those who buy into the higher tier. They could also charge a fee to businesses to have their sites visible to a wider audience.
The effects of this are far-reaching:
- Internet visibility for businesses and websites will be based on the ability to pay for it (leaving the little guys behind)
- Consumers will not get access to all the content on the internet unless they can pay for it
- SEO’s and web marketers could be out of work if competition on the internet disappears in place of visibility to the highest bidder, alone.
- Net Neutrality makes for greater competition, which is the basis of a free market. And competition creates better content. Without competition, content and product quality may decrease significantly.
- The cost to start a website may sky rocket, since ISPs can charge for visibility. The beauty of the internet is that it opens up a new channel for small businesses and start-ups. Without that option, many will be priced out.
- Consumers and websites negatively affected by ISPs would have fewer recourses, with the FCC and in the courts.
Losing the protections of Title II and the common carrier regulation could have real and serious consequences not only for websites, businesses and web marketers, but society as a whole, potentially limiting access to education, economic opportunity and information to much of the population. Take action by calling your local senators and telling them that you oppose the rollback of net neutrality.