On December 14, 2017, in the face of loud opposition, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the 2015 Open Internet Order (also known as “net neutrality”), opening the door for Internet carriers to set different price points and speeds for types of Internet traffic. The possibility of losing Internet speed, traffic and customers—due to Internet providers’ alliances and scaled fees—has worried many small business owners.
But how real is this threat, really? Could the end of net neutrality have a catastrophic effect on your web presence and online marketing?
Not likely. At least, not right away—and not to the point of shutting you down. Here’s why.
Could and Would are Two Different Things
Just because ISPs now can charge different prices for different reasons, that doesn’t mean they will. Public pressure—and consumers’ roles in the market—can play a role, even absent government regulations.
If ISPs were to start slowing people’s Internet speeds or arbitrarily blocking your clients’ access to your site because you’re not in some “preferred network,” it wouldn’t be long before public outcry could mandate a market correction. Comcast, for example, has already released a statement vowing not to throttle any form of lawful content.
The Debate Is Far from Over
Of course, the FCC’s regulation only prevails if Congress allows it to do so. But there are pending bills that could permanently enshrine net neutrality into law. The threat of Congressional action may also prevent huge sudden shifts in Internet providers’ services, in a two-fold fashion: First, providers may not want to change their business structures, just to have to change back, because of a new law. And second, they also know that, if they were to take some dramatic action in terms of pricing and access, that might backfire. It could galvanize Congress into action.
These Things Take Time
Instead of rushing to alter nationwide delivery, companies will likely roll out test markets, smaller scale adjustments as trial periods, and more. Therefore, while net neutrality reversal has been in effect for more than a month, it may take months—even years—before you really see any meaningful changes.
Bottom line: It’s far too soon to tell how much of an impact the reversal of net neutrality will have on your law firm. I believe in being prepared for any eventuality, but, in this situation, it’s a better use of your time to grow your business than worry about any potential net-related issues down the road.