Welp. It’s happened. Gone are the days of free and open internet, it seems. On December 14, the FCC’s Republican majority waved through Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to gut the 2015 Net Neutrality protections.
Killing off net neutrality ends the internet as we know it, as it essentially hands over the reins to bigwigs like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, giving them power over what content consumers can access. People are… how you say… pissed.
This is very much unknown territory, and there’s a lot of ‘doom and gloom’ chatter surrounding the whole matter. But, sifting through all that, what does that mean for consumers, businesses and providers? What are the ramifications?
Let’s break it down. On one hand, you’ve got the surface limitations. Internet service providers (ISPs) would no longer be bound to treating all data the same. Providers would be allowed to prioritize certain types of content, websites, or online services based on what potentially rakes in the most profit for them. It also means they could decide to limit or restrict certain types of content.
“Customers can expect to see content they are trying to access dramatically slowed down,” states Karyn Smith, general counsel for cloud communications platform Twilio. “Providers may choose to slow certain types of traffic—such as videos, photos or other data rich media—that take more bandwidth….All of these behaviors are examples of anti-competitive behavior that kill innovation and the companies driving it.”
On the other hand, at a slightly more obscure, deeper level, you have the ramifications for businesses. Small businesses, for example who rely on their online presence could eventually see an effect from this.
Many businesses depend on and measure success by online traffic which generates leads. Without net neutrality, internet service providers could make it more difficult or next to impossible for some customers to get to your business website. “Your ISP could prioritize and otherwise interfere with traffic simply because they have partnerships or get paid by businesses who compete with you,” states VoIP Integrations company BVoIP in a recent blog post.
Now, down to the nitty gritty - the impact on solution providers and the channel. Without net neutrality, the worry is that non-regulated broadband providers will have little to no motivation to provide their software applications, cloud services and other broadband services with the same quality as before. Or, worse, they will favor competitors paying for exclusive access.
The repeal could also potentially make negotiations with carriers more difficult, according to Norm Shockley, president and CEO of Aplena. That’s where it get hairy. Shockley says that folks will have to have contracts that keep everyone's' interest in mind. Which brings up a whole mess of questions and complications, but that’s a dig for another time. Shockley also says that providers will likely need to provide more tools for customers to monitor their bandwidth to make sure they’re not getting the wool pulled over their eyes.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Some experts say that the impacts will be huge and deeply felt. Others say that the changes will be hardly noticeable. Only time will tell, and this battle is not over yet. Sores of lawsuits regarding the repeal are already being launched or are itching to be. See you in court, net neutrality repeal.