Net neutrality, a measure imposed by the Obama administration, is the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all data on the internet the same, and not charge differently by user, content, platform, or application. Under net neutrality all websites had equal access to the internet, and service providers were unable to block, slow down or upcharge specific websites or content – which was great for users of streaming services (like Netflix) and for users of high-data sites (like Amazon).
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed net neutrality in December; the fear now is that internet service providers will begin to discriminate based on bandwidth required, causing popular sites to become slow, forcing those sites to pay more for equal speed, or hindering access altogether.
The repeal has outraged representatives from 21 states, including New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is leading a lawsuit against the FCC. Apart from New York, the other attorneys general involved in the lawsuit are from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.
Clearly, there’s some heated debate over whether internet is considered a luxury or a necessity; nearly half of the state attorneys general currently pursuing litigation are fighting to prove that the internet isn’t merely an information service, but also a telecommunications utility.
Small businesses are at risk of being most impacted by this change, especially e-commerce sites. Small businesses are at risk of being edged out by service fees they can’t afford to pay – sales will dwindle when product pages don’t load. Big business, with the ability to put up the initial capital for these fees, will win out.
Additionally, online content could be prioritized, making it difficult for readers to find small business’ articles, white papers and blogs and for those companies to compete with media giants.
Access fees and competitive blocking are other potential problems. For instance, freemiums will become less effective without net neutrality because businesses may find themselves blocked when they compete with a similar offering from the blocking service provider.
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