These days, answers to most questions are a quick internet search away. While there is a certain formula related to algorithms and key words that determines what search results come first, there isn’t a lot of censorship or favoritism in those determinations. For better or for worse, based on the search engine’s criteria, a wide variety of results will return for any search with every kind of business or provider—no matter the size of the company—at an equal likelihood of showing up on your screen. Following the FCC’s decision to overturn the net neutrality regulations, the currently unrestricted internet experience could become a thing of the past, as it could become possible for major service providers to restrict and control what consumers see online. This includes charging potentially exorbitant fees for continued high bandwidth—a cost that could drive the little guy out of the running and push consumers toward favored or larger companies.
However, there is still hope that this ruling will not come to fruition. Currently, 50 senators have endorsed legislation to overturn the FCC’s decision. If passed, we would see the return of these regulations, but this legislation must be passed by February 12th. As that date looms closer, the net neutrality debate will ultimately start again, and it’s important to know how this decision will drastically affect our free and open internet.
A big part of the problem with removing net neutrality is that it will affect the competition between big businesses and any small start-ups that may be on the rise. These start-ups and small businesses are in danger of suffering the biggest impact from a lack of net neutrality regulation.
One of the beautiful things about the internet as a whole is that it provides people with access to companies and businesses that they wouldn’t otherwise know about. It’s allowed local mom-and-pop shops to have a reach beyond just their local community and to expand their businesses on a new and sometimes global scale. This ability to scale and compete with bigger, more well-known names could go away should they conflict with or threaten larger corporations.
A site’s loading time is a major factor in its search ranking—albeit not the only one. Every tenth of a second that a site takes to load, means that you can potentially lose up to 10% of its users who will click away. One full second is a big deal. The ability for a carrier or ISP to reduce or increase bandwidth—and thus loading times—depending on their personal alliances and depth of their pocketbooks, is dangerous for the web presence of small or independent companies. Carriers can come to businesses and demand they pay extra in order to keep their bandwidth at a satisfactory rate. This increased cost can be enough to destroy any chances smaller companies have of competition.
In a country founded on the principals of free speech and the right to a life without constricting censorship, who wants to allow major corporations to decide what we do and don’t see in our day-to-day digital life?
I strongly believe in supporting the little guy and giving all small startups the opportunity to succeed. Our platform is all about being able to put what you want on your internet and then being able to share and collaborate with others. What’s most valuable to you is dictated by you. It’s not dictated by others. If net neutrality goes away, your access to your favorite sites will be hindered because you can’t see them as fast, endangering your everyday experience in the digital world. It would be a shame to see innovation and small businesses stifled by an uneven playing field, limiting their potential if net neutrality is overturned. We could miss out on the next Google or Facebook.