Net neutrality has been a hot-button issue lately, especially since the United States ushered in its administration. In question is whether or not the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) will uphold the concept of net neutrality. Also in question is the possibility of severe ramifications for citizens, brands, and advertisers.

Net neutrality matters to a wide variety of individuals and groups. Brands need net neutrality, because it gives consumers unrestricted access to their ads, content, and social media. Without net neutrality, citizens may have to pay for access to view specific websites.

In May, the FCC voted to dismantle net neutrality regulations. Many are left waiting and asking how long it will take for this to go into effect? Better yet, how long do brands, marketers, and citizens have to figure out how to respond?

Let’s recap before we get into the larger ramifications of the recent FCC vote:

Net Neutrality Refresh

You’ve most likely heard the phrase ‘net neutrality’ on the news or in passing conversations, but you may not realize the gravity of the situation. Essentially, net neutrality ensures that internet users can access the whole web equally, and that all internet service providers (ISPs), like Comcast, Cox, and Verizon must offer access to the entire web at the same speed. For example, Facebook should load at the same rate as a small book publisher’s website. This means that ISPs have to remain unbiased in the land of the internet. In short, net neutrality ensures equal access to the entire internet.

OK, so what’s non-neutrality then?

Non-neutrality is just that – not equal. Think of having to pay $50 a month just to access Google and Facebook. But you want more, right?

Like, where are my sports blogs, podcasts, and Twitter? No worries, just pay $100 a month for second-tier sites, and $150 to have access to all sites. I mean it’s not enough to just pay for electricity and Wi-Fi, right? We should be to have access to certain sites too. (OMG, this is terrible. Any digital marketer or millennial for that matter should be shaking in their boots.)

This pricing model is just one ideation of how non-neutrality might work. There are many other assumptions, but none of them look good for the future of internet users and online marketers since it would no longer be free to access.

Why should citizens and marketers care?

Is this a real question?! It shouldn’t be, but there are some individuals that don’t fret the possibility of non-neutrality. In the realm of digital, we know that things are always changing, whether it’s an algorithm, social platform, ad format, or new regulations. So why is this change different from any other? Here are a few reasons why net neutrality is essential to keeping the internet as we know it today.

1. Equal footing will create an equal playing field:

There will be more room for competition. Websites are better able to compete with one another when they don’t have to worry about their customer’s internet plan. A free internet also has room for many players. Anyone who registers and hosts a website is on an even playing field with everyone else, even Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Even wealthy and well-established players have to optimize for best practices.        

2. Costs of getting started online are lower with net neutrality:

Well, you don’t have to pay off any ISPs. And there’s no separate process. Everything is equal.

You don’t have to approach ISPs like Comcast and ask for the best access plan. Net neutrality is currently the law of the land, meaning you’re automatically guaranteed just that – internet equality.

3. Creates honest winners and losers:

The strategy, talent, and quality of specific products, services, and marketing create winners and losers in specific industries today. Honest winners and losers are important for internet marketing. Everyone has to work for it, whereas the potential threat of non-neutrality creates a rigged system – building an advantage that money will bring influence and success.

Non-neutrality will create an uncertainty within many marketplaces and upset the balance that has led to the current circle of innovation of the broadband ecosystem.

OK, I think we can all agree that we never know what’s to come within politics and the internet. There’s a significant advantage by having a bunch of money and of course, influence. But, do those with tons of money and influence really need another leg up? Yes, that was a rhetorical question.

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