Have you ever found yourself stuck on the interstate, looking for the next opening in the fast lane so that you can finally get out of traffic? If so, then you’ve experienced what the net neutrality repeal may mean for consumers and small businesses.

Let me explain.

The net neutrality rules that were passed during Barack Obama’s presidential term were aimed to level the playing field for all service providers. The goal was to stop internet service providers from creating backroom deals with big consumer providers while squeezing out the little guys and ultimately limiting the amount of accessible content to consumers.

With the latest repeal, you might start seeing some major changes to your internet experience. To put it in layman’s terms, this repeal has given internet service providers the ability to create their own express lanes – forcing those who have the funds to pay up while leaving the smaller providers with nowhere to turn.

So far, companies like AT&T and Comcast have said consumers will not see a change. The NY Times makes a great point by saying, “With such a big spotlight on them, the companies will probably be careful about changing service plans, partly to avoid angering customers and attracting lawmakers’ attention.”

What does this mean for businesses?

It’s great that these companies have made statements saying there won’t be changes, but should we take their word for it? At the end of the day, business is business – and money is a huge motivator. It wouldn’t be surprising to see some changes to the ‘net down the line.

While big content providers like Netflix, Google, Facebook, etc. will be able to afford hiked up prices, smaller businesses may not.

If you’re a business owner, chances are you’re using multiple social media platforms to market your content. There may come a time where you will have to pay more for certain “privileges,” like Instagram or a faster download speed.

This means even SEO can be affected. Page speed is a factor in determining your domain authority, meaning a slower download speed can negatively impact your marketing efforts. Startups, especially those in Silicon Valley, may take a huge hit.

Net Neutrality was meant to spark innovation.

With net neutrality, users were able to create an app without ever having to worry about excessive prices for bandwidth or streaming quality. Without net neutrality, this may not be the case. Everything from upload speed to streaming quality may be affected. As it stands right now, these are the different speeds required for streaming live video:

  • 500Kbps – Lowest Speed Required for Streaming
  • 5Mbps – Provides Quality Viewing
  • 3Mbps – Provides Standard Definition
  • 5-8Mbps – Provides 720p and 1080p HD
  • 25Mbps – Provides 4K Ultra HD

Without net neutrality, ISP’s (Internet Service Providers), will now be able to charge premiums for higher bandwidths. Let’s take Netflix for example. Netflix now produces most of its shows in 4K, giving their consumers an array of high-quality shows.

If Comcast decides to start charging Netflix a higher premium based on the amount of bandwidth Netflix requires – what is going to happen next? More likely than not, Netflix will offset these added costs by charging their users more. So, while Netflix would have to pay a higher cost upfront, they’d be able to recoup their loss by simply charging you more.

Congressman Tim Ryan from Ohio spoke on the issue in Business Insider, saying, “I think the FCC decision on net neutrality is going to damage the internet as we know it today. I think the internet’s going to start looking a lot more like cable television.”

Oh, one more thing.

The repeal doesn’t stop with our internet providers. The repeal also has ripple effects in the mobile industry.

Your mobile plan is based off an amount of data you have available to enjoy all your features and apps. If you take away the net neutrality rules, then your service provider, such as Verizon or AT&T, will be able to charge multiple premiums.

You might even start seeing mobile plans that would require a higher payment just to stream HD content.

To sum it up…

The way internet currently works is like a toll-free highway that everyone has the same access to drive. The repeal of net neutrality could mean that this toll-free highway starts charging tolls of different amounts, with semi-trucks paying more than a sedan. Those who are willing and able to pay for faster express lanes will be charged more money.

Don’t head for the hills just yet.

The net neutrality repeal is still a new issue, one that should be treated with caution. With expected lawsuits and attempts to push back these regulations, this story is still far from over. For now, as consumers and small business owners, all we can do is trust ISP’s when they tell us our web viewing experience won’t change.



Emily Bettridge is Plaid Swan’s Content Strategist and
a graduate of the University of Iowa’s School of Journalism
with a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication.