Well, the FCC has made their decision on net neutrality and we are now faced with two versions of the web. One where we are protected on our computers, but not on our phones. Which means we can gain access to anything we want if we’re using our browsers, but the wireless carriers can block apps if they want (i.e. AT&T could block Yelp or Verizon could block Facebook).
The rules are, at best, “net semi-neutrality,” according to the New York Times. The rules are bogus, according to Gini Dietrich.
I’ve been pretty outspoken about the need to maintain net neutrality for several months now. I’ve blogged about it and, when I speak, I advise business leaders to pay careful attention to the rulings. I even included it in my trends to pay attention to for 2011. If the neutrality goes away, the way we conduct business will be changed forever.
And it looks like that’s half going to happen. Sort of (nothing like trying to play both sides of the field).
Because this just came down last night, we can only speculate what this means to our businesses, but following is what we do know.
1. Internet service providers are restricted from blocking you from accessing content and wireless providers are prohibited from blocking access to voice applications that compete with their own services. This means you can still access any site from your computer and you can continue using Skype or Google Voice on your phone. But it also means if AT&T decides they don’t want to do business with Yelp, they can block your access of it on your phone.
2. The regulations do not forbid ISPs from creating varying speeds for different types of content, as long as they do so for similar content. For instance, if they decide to send videos to you more slowly, they’d have to do it for YouTube, Vimeo, and all the other sites.
3. It’s still unclear whether or not the ISPs can create a metered payment model, based on your usage. If they are allowed, there soon could be a cable-like payment model, which means you pay for your Internet use based on how much you use it (I’ll probably have to pay $10,000 a month or go to Internet rehab).
4. It’s also still unclear how paid prioritization will play out. This means a business could pay the ISP every month to deliver their content more quickly.
The last two, which are both unclear in the new rulings, are what you’ll really need to watch. If either (or both) of them go through, the web will no longer be a playing field. Small business will no longer be able to compete with big business. And the economy rebound, which is so dependent on our small businesses, could be even more slow.
What do you think this means for business?
P.S. If you’re interested in following the news on this as things change in the next few months, Google “FCC net neutrality” and click on the “follow” button (this is a new service). It will push updates to your email as often (or as little) as you like.
Thanks to Tech Republic for the image