The repeal of net neutrality has been discussed in America for some time and has, this December, been repealed. The internet, as the US knows it, is about to change forever.
Sitting here at my desk with “free and unfettered” access to the internet in Brighton, I’ve been pondering what the impact of this repeal will be upon those working in digital marketing. What might the UK possibly look like should the same thing happen?
Before we get stuck into that—for the people in the room who are not fully up to speed—what even is net neutrality and what does it mean for the interwebs?
What is net neutrality and does it matter?
Since the dawn of the internet there has been a level playing field in terms of availability—from anything as small as a personal blog, to live-streaming football, or watching a Whiteboard Friday video. The model we currently have means that ISPs (Internet Service Providers like AT&T, Virgin, BT etc.) don’t get to make any rules or show any preference between these websites and internet services.
Whether it’s our little Brighton Digital Women blog—or the gargantuan iPlayer—net neutrality means ISPs can’t treat sites differently in terms of serving them to users of the internet. This is the opposite of the TV broadcasting models. You can only get Sky if you pay for Sky.
Reasons a neutral internet matters:
- Sets a level playing field for all no matter what your actual business scale.
- Allows for providing limitless sources of information, news, advice, support, and enjoyment.
- It provides an unbiased space for brands to promote themselves and compete by creating genuine digital strategies to reach their audience.
- It gives the world access to the internet in most trustworthy way possible.
- We have the ability to provide better online experiences for consumers and brands.
And there are probably a lot more reasons. Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @BTNDigitalWomen
What’s just happened to US Net Neutrality?
The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) repealed net neutrality this month with a riptide of backlash from—well—the whole of America.
Meryl Kremer of New Breed Marketing describes the impact:
“The end of net neutrality would mean that ISPs would no longer be required to provide unlimited or unfettered access to the internet. That means that larger businesses who can afford to pay for preferential treatment can easily eliminate their smaller competition simply by funding partnerships with ISP providers.”
Barry Levine writes from martechtoday.com and goes into further detail with an example of how this will look practically:
“…internet providers were classified the same as telephone service providers and requiring that all traffic be handled the same way. Pai’s proposal seeks to once again classify internet providers as “information services,” and thus able to block content they don’t like or charge different fees to sites and apps for access to their service or to fast transmission lanes.
Without net neutrality, Verizon and its mobile subsidiary, Verizon Wireless, might decide, for instance, to block other online-only news services, since Verizon Communications owns Yahoo News. Or AT&T could determine that anyone providing streaming video needs to pay more for access, thus giving YouTube a huge advantage over, say, a small educational video site like Brightstorm.”
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the direct opposite of what the internet has always been and always should be.
What does it mean for SEO, PPC, and content marketing professionals and their outputs?
Digital marketers in the US have been concerned with this for a long time and now it’s come to fruition, they’re discussing the impact.
In the UK, we would expect similar concerns and worries about the knock on effect of such a removal in regulation which would include:
- Loss of brand voice due to preferential treatment of bigger richer competitors.
- Rich brands owning accessibility through ISP partnerships. This allows big companies and biased groups of owners to push their agenda by controlling what access users get to internet based services.
- Minimised content reach for smaller brands or brands not aligned with the beliefs and interests of the ISPs and owners.
- Impact on consumers and visitors trust levels. Non-neutrality creates even more cynicism and lack of trust, because the internet is essentially owned by biased brands.
- Cost of PPC, paid social media, and video ads.
- Political affiliation of the new owners of the internet.
Where does the UK currently stand?
Currently, our net-neutrality is protected under European law of Open Internet Access. It states that: “…providers of internet access services shall treat all traffic equally, when providing internet access services, without discrimination, restriction or interference”.
You can download and read all the regulation here if you’ve eaten too many chocolate oranges, can’t physically move and have already watched all the Christmas films!
Thanks to what was the UK’s single stupidest moment, we’re leaving the EU in the next two years.
Before the EU laws covering neutrality there was a voluntary declaration in order to protect neutrality. It’s likely the government will just copy and paste those relevant EU regulations over during Brexit.
But, you know, they might not and then it will be time to riot and march. Who wants Rupert Murdoch to decide what they see on the internet? 100% nope.
3 Questions we have for you…
- What, if any, is the impact for UK businesses wanting to reach their audience/s in the US and vice versa?
- In the light of what’s happened in the US, do you think it is possible it would happen here?
- Are you part of a US digital marketing team? Get in touch to share your thoughts and experiences of the repeal and its effects.
Want to chat about this? Come along to our next meet up at Eagle Labs Brighton. We meet every month to discuss issues like this and build a supportive, progressive community.
I’m the founder of Brighton Digital Women and love meeting new people and being part of a community that cares, supports, gets creative, gets angry and gets shit done. I’m a rare born and bred Brightonian and will NEVER leave!
I’m a Digital Marketing Manager at SiteVisibility and I’m a filmmaker who loves to direct and edit. You can usually find me at our events with a Canon stuck to my face.