The net neutrality debate has been a burning topic since the FCC confirmed the removal of Title II regulations labelling internet service providers (ISPs) and the cable companies as public utilities.
Post the Net Neutrality declaration telecom giants have the freedom to charge customers for accessing online content. Leading service providers like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon are looking forward to lifting restriction from censoring content, prioritizing specific content for users.
Net neutralization will still give full internet access to the users, but they will be charged far more. This will be a challenge for SEO and online marketing specialists as their advertisements will only reach a portion of their audience due to the limited access. Today’s online market allows participation of small-scale firms and start-ups to compete for the spotlight without any substantial payment. This competitive atmosphere makes the entire online marketing and SEO industry the preferred platform to market products or services.
The advocates of net neutrality say that the service providers should treat all sites and applications as equal, and ensure there is no traffic shaping or bandwidth throttling. The web needs to remains free and open to provide the democratic flow of information. Marketers will lose significant market chunk if data is controlled, repackaged, and sold at a premium. Content marketers have always provided their customers with highly relevant content tailored to meet specific needs, and the open web has supported countless bloggers to build massive audiences by sharing relevant content. Marketers are worried that this will be impossible if ISPs and large telcos get their way.
In addition to stifling innovation, it would also limit how marketing channels evolve and restrict market reach by making it increasingly difficult to adapt to changing consumer behaviour. Although some of the key players could capitalize on these “new” discriminatory business models, start-ups and small businesses will suffer due to limited funds. If the web remains restricted, real innovation will slow down to a crawl, resulting in the overall economy suffering from billions of dollars losses with the balance of power in favour of the ISPs.
Marketers across the globe are coming together irrespective of the type of campaigns – paid search, SEO, display advertising, social media – against the ISPs from becoming the uncontested gatekeepers of information. At the National Association of Broadcasters Conference held in Las Vegas, the FCC had poised to vote to repeal the Title II. This vote is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which seeks public comment on this proposal to reverse the Title II reclassification including many net neutrality provisions. This movement has gained massive support across the globe from marketers as well as consumers.
Marketers also point out that the ISPs will increase paid prioritization in the coming years exponentially if net neutralization fades away. They might even push top companies like Netflix or Google to pay higher to deliver their content and services to consumers, regardless of the hefty amount that they are already paying. With the impact of paid prioritization and the rise of so-called “zero rating” plans, the future of online marketing would be hard on consumers, advertisers, and small businesses.