Net Neutrality: What it Means for Small Businesses

December 14th, 2017 by Jennifer Lough

Regardless of politics, the proposed repeal of net neutrality is making everybody with an Internet presence pretty crabby. However, in the interest of spreading knowledge, I’ve gone and sorted through the hysteria and straw men floating around. The vote to keep or kill net neutrality is today, December 14. Whether net neutrality stays or goes, here’s what it means for your business:

  • The 2015 net neutrality provision made the Internet a utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The FCC’s proposal  to reverse this returns the Internet to an “interstate information service” as it was classified in 2002. This means that the FCC intends to dial back regulation on internet service providers (ISPs). The plan is to return Internet regulation to the way it was before 2015. These regulations banned ISPs from throttling or fast-tracking Internet traffic. If you didn’t notice when the FCC passed new regulations in 2015, it’s a fair bet repealing them now won’t make much practical or tangible difference to your operation. For reference, here’s a blog post from 2015 on the same subject.
  • However, there is some evidence that ISPs like Comcast can and do throttle data service without net neutrality regulations. Thus, it’s possible that if the FCC repeals regulations, your business could have to start paying more for a particular standard of Internet service.
  • However (again), this is unlikely if we believe various ISPs. Google, for example, has pledged itself to keeping the Internet free and open regardless of the FCC’s ruling. At least for now, many other ISPs are planning to maintain the status quo.

Bottom line: For the time being, net neutrality regulations probably aren’t going to have a major, immediate impact on your business. Whether they stay or go is unlikely to suddenly cause changes in the Internet. So, things will probably go on as usual for users and businesses. Nonetheless, we’ll be keeping abreast of any changes. Stay tuned.