How Can the Repeal of Net Neutrality Affect Small Business Websites?

By AnnMarie Minichiello
December 19, 2017

Unless you have been under a rock, you have heard the term “Net Neutrality” being thrown around a lot lately. It is a complicated topic to discuss, but it is one that will affect every American.

What makes it so complicated is that no one is too sure of the exact effects the repeal will have. This is due to the fact that the internet has always had Net Neutrality, making the post-repeal internet somewhat of a mystery.

What we do know, is that the person that created the World Wide Web did so in order to create an incredible source of data and information. The repeal of Net Neutrality has the ability to stifle that.

Here, we are going to give you the Cliff’s Notes version of what it all means. Then, we are going to delve into how it affects your business’ website and online marketing.


What is Net Neutrality?

Currently, the internet is like the Wild Wild West. Ok, not exactly. But generally speaking, everyone has equal usage and access, as long as the activities are legal.

The Open Internet (another term for Net Neutrality) operates by all internet service providers (ISPs; like Verizon and Comcast) treating and delivering all web traffic and content equally.

Net Neutrality laws passed during the Obama Administration were created in order to protect users from ISPs discriminating services based on the nature of the content. The idea was to allow users to share and access the information of their choosing without interference, regardless of your ISP.

Another factor was to prevent ISPs from splitting the internet into “packages,” as seen by this Tweet. Some services on the list are already paid (like Netflix). But most are free, like Facebook, Gmail and Snapchat. The ISPs are now able to charge for an otherwise free service that is integral to your daily web traffic, and internet marketing platforms we have become accustomed to.


What Net Neutrality Rules Were Repealed?

Here are the rules that went into effect in 2015, which were repealed as of Thursday, December 14th, 2017:

  1. Blocking: Internet service providers could not discriminate against any lawful content by blocking websites or apps.
  2. Throttling: Service providers could not slow the transmission of data based on the nature of the content, as long as it is legal.
  3. Paid Prioritization: Service providers could not create an internet fast lane for companies and consumers who pay premiums, and a slow lane for those who don’t.


Is It Really the End of Net Neutrality?

Not yet. While the FCC vote passed, there are still other governing bodies that can intervene.

Currently the New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has put together a database for people to find if the names of their deceased relatives were used to fabricate pro-reversal sentiments. I can’t go down that rabbit hole in this post, so feel free to read about that here.

Additionally, a dozen or so senators are working on a Congressional Review Act. This allows Congress to counter regulatory rulings of federal agencies, such as the FCC. And — if they succeed in reversing the vote — the FCC would not be able to repeal net neutrality again.

{{hand rubbing intensifies}}


How the Repeal of Net Neutrality Can Affect Small Businesses

As a small business owner, you rely heavily on your website bringing in business. This is especially true for companies with eCommerce websites, where their business revenue depends on an open internet.

Again, no one can be certain of the actual effects just yet. But the concerns are justified, as the repealed regulations have the potential to favor more established (and richer) companies.


1. Your Website Speed Can be Affected

With ISPs now having the power to throttle web traffic, they can allow bigger company’s — or their partners — websites a faster speed.

Site speed plays an important role in SEO. So, if your website is being throttled by an ISP, your organic rankings in Google will go down. Many companies (including us here at Logic Web Media) rely primarily on organic internet traffic for new customer leads.

Additionally, we know in the web world that website speed is very important to user experience (UX). According to a study done by Adobe, 39% of people will stop engaging with a website if the images or content take too long to load.


2. You May Have to Pay for Preference

Similar to what is mentioned above, certain companies will get preferential treatment. However, the ISP will (of course) allow you to pay to get better treatment.

This may be easy for a company like Netflix to do, but may not be so easy for your small business. Furthermore, paying one ISP for preference might mean that potential customers on another competing ISP will have less access than they originally had.

Additionally, if you do decide to pay for preference, that money has to come from somewhere. We can assume that this will mean increasing your prices, so that the burden on you is offset and passed to your customer. This is not a judgment on anyone — that’s just how business works.


3. You Might See Financial Challenges Beyond the Internet

Small companies know that taking part in any internet marketing efforts requires money. However, businesses rarely have “extra” money. We just allocate it accordingly.

With ISPs ability to throttle and block, you may need to up your internet marketing budget substantially.

As a result, small businesses may wind up tightening the financial reigns, just to be able to have a web presence. This could mean slower job growth or the reduction in the usual extras your employees are used to.


4. You May Be Playing on an Uneven Field

The main argument for the repeal, is to prioritize content and businesses with a “fast-lane” option. However, if there is a fast-lane, then there must be a slow-lane.

The favorable treatment of the websites will be dictated by the ISP and, frankly, money. This money is either coming from your consumer’s ability to pay to see your content, or your ability to pay for your content to be visible. Either way, someone is paying more than what they are accustomed to, just for access to your business.

Currently, favorable treatment on the internet is given to quality content, good user reviews, a good website build, and, basically, by the overall experience that comes with your internet presence.



Again, these effects are only speculation at this point. They come from our experience of building websites and providing internet marketing for many years. However, it is important to be aware of these major changes and take actions to help your small business should any of this come to life.

Should any of these ISPs exercise a lack of restraint and ethics, we will see a major shift in the web design industry.

Back in July when the conversation started, Comcast promised to support Net Neutrality in this tweet.

And, since the vote on 12/14/17, several commitments have been deleted from their website.

Happy browsing 😉

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