The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted recently to repeal regulations of Internet service providers, referred to as “Net Neutrality.” Understanding what this means can be confusing. Let’s take a look at an overview of the possible impact for marketers.
Net Neutrality is simply a collection of regulations. In 2015, the FCC adopted historic Net Neutrality rules based on Title II of the Communications Act, giving Internet users the strongest protections possible. This worked to keep the Internet free and open — ensuring users can access and share Internet information without interference from an Internet Service Provider (ISP). This means ISPs cannot interfere with the content you view or post online. Net Neutrality reflects how the Internet has always worked – what we’re accustomed to when we think of Internet functionality.
Since the FCC repealed Net Neutrality, the concern is that ISPs can now slow down content, block content, and charge extra fees for companies to receive preferential treatment — all would be potentially detrimental to most businesses marketing online that rely on the open Internet to advertise their products and services and reach customers. Net Neutrality fosters competition, innovation, and job growth.
Proponents of the repeal claim Net Neutrality micro-manages the Internet and removing it will foster innovation and create competition in Internet access pricing and options among ISPs that will be good for consumers. However, in most locations in the U.S. there isn’t much ISP competition, as they function more like a monopoly.
Regardless of which side you agree with, the debate isn’t over. Over a dozen senators are working on a Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to counter regulatory rulings from federal agencies and would nullify the FCC’s vote. If the Act is passed and the repeal reversed, the FCC could not repeal net neutrality again. I’m sure we’ll all be watching this very closely.