If you were old enough to watch TV prior to the late 1980s, you were aware of the main monolithic broad channels (using their names today): ABC, NBC, Pix 11, Fox, CBS, Thirteen, My9. You had a perfectly clear view of these channels until cable came into your town. Once cable came in, unless you paid for television, even these public channels were gritty or unable to be accessed altogether. This was the beginning of widespread monetizing public access.
Net Neutrality was introduced because of the same issues. When the internet was first introduced on a broad-span for the public, it was dial-up access for AOL or Netscape. If you didn’t pay for one of these services, you didn’t have access to most of the internet. Fast forward 20+ years later, and anyone with access to the internet in the United States has an equal chance to access any legal content.
USA Today explains how this translates to the repeal of Net Neutrality:
Maybe you prefer Netflix content, but if AT&T’s own DirectTV content doesn’t count against your data cap, there’s ample reason to choose that instead. Instead of paying a flat price for access to use any app or service free of charge, companies could start bundling services into “social,” “video,” and so on. Maybe you prefer Twitter — but instead of a free download, you’ll have to buy access to it in a package with Facebook and Snapchat, to the tune of $4.99.
This means that an ISP (Internet Service Provider) has full reign to determine what websites you will have access to.
- ISPs can slow down your service to websites as they see fit
- ISPs can completely BLOCK service to websites as they see fit
- They can speed-up access to websites that you pay extra for, or bundle up for. For example, if an ISP has a deal with Netflix, you can find quick access to Netflix, but may block or slow-down access to Hulu.
- Force subscribers to pay for an extra fee to access certain websites
This is completely detrimental to small e-commerce businesses. If your website doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of an ISPs service, that service may altogether block your online store from user access. Forget the problems e-commerce business owners already face trying to boost social media posts, pay for Google Adwords, none of this will mean anything if users can’t physically access your website, or it takes them too long to load.
More so, this empowers big business over small business because the almighty dollar will win in the end. The less likely scenario is that an ISP will block an e-commerce store altogether, but you can bet that a big-box company who offers millions of dollars to an ISP will have easier, faster access to users compared to small businesses who do not have that kind of access to liquid cash to pay to compete.
This can affect all e-commerce businesses on varying levels. Most likely, your hosted website will try and work with an ISP to continue to get ranked and quick access for people to shop, and the cost of that will come down on you as the business owner. Whether you use an e-commerce shop like Shopify, Squareup, Big Commerce, or you’re on a hosted site like Etsy, Amazon, or Ebay, you will have to pay more. Paying more means you either cut into your own profits, or you will have to raise the prices of your goods, potentially losing customers to a big-box business.
While this vote has already happened and left the internet ablaze, there is still something you can do. Remain cognizant and aware of the next steps of ISP providers. Text BATTLE to 384-387 to let Congress know this is a terrible move, especially for small business. It’s not enough to just send the text, you have to actively use your voice by connecting and following-through to leave a message, write an email, send a letter to your representatives. With enough voices, some action can be taken.
You also will need to start thinking out-of-the-box to get the word out about your business. Build your email subscriber list, get active on social media, use the postal mail, attend more vendor events. Use this time to connect with customers on a deeper, more personal level so they feel a commitment to your business and will shop with you despite the changes.