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Pay to play? 5 things to know about changing net-neutrality rules

On Behalf of | Dec 23, 2017 | Business & Commercial Law

As a business owner, you know how important your web presence is in reaching customers. You may therefore be wondering about the decision this month by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to eliminate so-called “net neutrality” rules.

Those rules have regulated internet service providers since 2015. They have prevented internet service providers (ISPs) from taking actions such as blocking certain websites or charging more for faster load times or other higher-end service.

Here are five important things to know about how the new regulations could affect your business.

The repeal hasn’t taken effect yet.

The repeal of the net-neutrality rules will not take effect until next year. There are also numerous legal challenges expected against changing the rules.

The attorneys general of several states, as well as a number of consumer/public interest groups, have promised legal action. The Internet Association, a trade group that includes tech giants such as Facebook and Google, may also bring suit.

No one knows for sure what will change.

Major broadband companies such as AT&T and Comcast claim that they are committed to maintaining many of the practices of net neutrality, even without rules requiring it.

The online experience may not change for many consumers in the short-term. In the longer-term, however, it is quite possible that ISPs will create new tiers of service for businesses that are prepared to pay for it.

It is possible that an ISP could try to block or slow down content or software.

Critics of changing the net neutrality rules point to the fact that AT&T initially blocked the FaceTime feature on iPhones over the AT&T network. This occurred even before the net neutrality rules were changed.

If a big tech company like Facebook is concerned about ISP restrictions, there is all the more reason for individual entrepreneurs trying to launch new apps to be concerned. Such restrictions could end up undercutting competition rather than promoting it. This is especially true for those not willing or able to “pay to play.”

Load time matters greatly.

According to an analysis of Google data, if a site takes longer than three seconds to load more than fifty percent of users will give up and move onto another one.

Any action taken by your ISP that slows your site down would be a serious concern, as it would likely affect your consumers’ view on your businesses’ commitment to customer service.

Many people don’t have much of a choice about their ISP.

In theory, even without the net-neutrality rules, people should be able to choose an internet service provider whose service makes sense for them. After all, the premise behind changing the rules on ISPs is that it will allow for more competition.

In practice, however, nearly half of Americans – 48 percent – don’t have a chance to choose among more than one provider for home broadband.