The Cloud

Proposed FCC Rule Poses Danger for Smaller Companies

A plan to allow digital content providers to pay for Internet 'fast lanes' could deal a blow to competitors that don't have deep pockets.
David McCannApril 30, 2014

Is our two-decade romance with the Internet finally about to break up?

Twenty years after the medium arrived in the consciousness of the masses, it still holds romantic appeal to the majority of fair-minded folks who see it as a mostly level playing field for Davids and Goliaths alike.

Net Neutrality logoBut the Federal Communications Commission wields the power to ensure victory for the big brutes at the expense of smaller fry. The FCC is working on a plan under which it would let broadband Internet service providers charge higher rates to content providers for faster delivery of information, over the objection of activists who want the commission to ensure that every packet of data continues to move through the network at the same speed.

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The activists are focused on convincing the FCC that it should regulate big Internet service providers as “common carriers,” a designation that prohibits a carrier from treating different groups of customers differently. This BloombergView article lays out an intriguing case for why that may be an inadequate approach to the inherent complexities related to the Internet.

The end of so-called “net neutrality” would entail potential financial ramifications for any company that provides digital content aimed at consumers. As this Reuters article points out, the FCC’s proposal could “let certain content providers pay for access to fast lanes and discourage consumers from going to competitors’ sites where videos or other content may load more slowly by comparison.”

Opinion_Bug7Indeed, it’s a rare Internet user who’s sanguine about slower speeds after experiencing higher ones. Depending on how much it will cost to gain fast-lane access and the depth of a company’s pockets, it’s reasonable to presume that many companies that compete in some way with the Amazons, Googles and Netflixes of the world, but lack their scale, will be slapped with a new disadvantage.

The FCC, for its part, denies that its plan would gut the “open Internet” and says the rule wouldn’t change the FCC’s underlying goals of transparency, according to Reuters.

Take that for what it’s worth, but also think about taking a new look at your digital content strategy in light of the new Internet environment that may coalesce if the FCC’s proposed rules become reality.