On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to implement a new net neutrality policy designed to ensure that internet service providers treat all legal content equally.
The policy, called the Open Internet Order, requires internet service providers to act as neutral gateways rather than a gatekeeper who handle access to different types of internet content in different ways or, more importantly, at different costs.
What does this mean for the small business owner?
It means you will be ensured equal access. The new regulations will ensure that all information you want to access on the internet (from webpages to audio, video, and other formats) will be treated equally by internet service providers. Internet service providers (ISPs) will not be able to discriminate against content by blocking it or slowing down its delivery through slower transmission feeds while charging for faster lanes of their internet network.
That means that your small business has as much access to the internet as a huge corporation. It means that your customers (& potential customers) will be able to locate and visit your website and that the site will load for them as quickly and easily as it does today.
The new policy bans three key things that help protect both consumers and you as a small business owner.
- No blocking – Broadband providers cannot block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
- No throttling – Broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
- No Paid Prioritization – Broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration — in other words, no ‘fast lanes.’ This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing the content and services of their affiliates.
So what happens next?
The new policy will go into effect in 60 days. Several ISPs have threatened litigation over the new policy, and there is also a movement in Congress to make net neutrality part of an updated version of the Telecommunications Act. That legislation would ban paid prioritization but would stop short of treating broadband like a utility.
Once again, as small business owners, all of us need to speak up and become part of the conversation.