The End of Net Neutrality?

May  30,  2014 / By Taylor Blog

In recent weeks, the (heated) debate around Net Neutrality sparked once again. As defined by the FCC, “The ‘Open Internet’ is the Internet as we know it. It’s open because it uses free, publicly available standards that anyone can access and build to, and it treats all traffic that flows across the network in roughly the same way. The principle of the Open Internet is sometimes referred to as ‘net neutrality.’ Under this principle, consumers can make their own choices about what applications and services to use and are free to decide what lawful content they want to access, create, or share with others. This openness promotes competition and enables investment and innovation.”

You may recall hearing about this in 2010 when the FCC moved to “preserve the open Internet” with the Open Internet Order which upheld Net Neutrality, putting to bed the debate on the topic. That is, until now.

Earlier this year, the Open Internet Order came under attack once again. Long story short, Net Neutrality is coming under fire via a new plan approved by the FCC. As the Washington Post reported, “The plan is not a final rule, but the vote is a significant step forward on a controversial idea that has invited fierce opposition from consumer advocates, Silicon Valley heavyweights, and Democratic lawmakers.”

If this does pass as proposed, it’s very possible the Internet experience as we know it will change. Per the Wall Street Journal, “The FCC voted 3-2 on a proposal that would ban Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from slowing traffic at all Web sites while being free to make deals for faster access (yes, the two ideas seem to conflict).” That means new proposal would allow ISPs (e.g. Comcast, Time Warner Cable) and web content providers (e.g. Facebook, Google) to broker deals that could give these sites faster and preferential speeds. Though the FCC says it will not allow “commercially unreasonable” business practices that could negatively impact consumers, many are concerned about what the end of Net Neutrality would mean for smaller businesses that can’t afford to pay for speed and, of course, consumers.

This topic has implications for brand marketers, too. For instance, if a brand creates content like a shareable video series, there would be deeper implications around where the content is hosted. If YouTube already has a deal with various ISPs, for example, the platform would offer a more compelling consumer experience than a site that doesn’t. And if the brand wanted to host the content on a microsite, the brand marketers would have to consider spending dollars with the ISPs to ensure the content loads quickly.

As this Wall Street Journal piece outlines, there are a number of next steps here that could create a number of different outcomes. In short, this debate is far from over and we shouldn’t count Net Neutrality out just yet. Having said that, this is an extremely important topic and one that the Taylor team will be watching closely as it unfolds.

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