How will changes to net neutrality affect small businesses?

Changes to net neutralityRecently, the US announced some big changes to net neutrality. But, no-one is sure how this will affect small businesses in the UK.

Will it make a difference, or will things keep ticking along as normal? Well, we didn’t want to wait around for Trump to tweet us the answer. Instead, we’ve investigated these changes to net neutrality ourselves. Here’s what we’ve come up with:

What is net neutrality?

People’s eyes tend to glaze over when they hear ‘net neutrality’. However, it’s a really important issue that everyone should be aware of – especially small businesses.

Net neutrality is a set of regulations that ensure everyone – regardless of social status or wealth – can access the internet without any limitations.

It actively stops your internet service provider (ISP) speeding up, slowing down or blocking content, applications or websites you want to use. And it stops ISPs from prioritizing certain websites over others.

Net neutrality also ensures that the internet remains free (apart from your broadband bill) for all users.

Why do people want to get rid of net neutrality?

So, everyone gets free and equal access to the content they love – who could have a problem with that?

Well, President Trump for one, and the new head of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai.

In December 2017, the FCC voted to repeal Obama’s net neutrality laws from two years earlier.

Previously, it stated that ISPs could only slow services down for “reasonable network management”. Now, it sees changing this as an opportunity to make money from both corporations and consumers.

Burger King did a great job of explaining how these changes to net neutrality will impact customers by presenting ‘Whopper neutrality’.

By telling customers they had to pay more for their burgers to be made faster, the company caused outrage! Our guess is that the reaction will be similar if this same system is introduced to the internet.

What do changes to net neutrality mean for small businesses?

Small businesses in the US won’t have an easy time if net neutrality comes into effect.

Their larger competitors are bound to be able to afford faster internet connections, so SMEs will be put in the ‘slow lane’. This will have a huge impact on engagement, as today’s audiences demand fast connection speeds.

A whopping 40% of consumers abandon a website if it takes more than three seconds to load. So, if you’re in the slower tier, you won’t get people to stay on your site.

It’s thought that once the US makes the changes to net neutrality the number of innovative and engaging small businesses will drop dramatically. They just won’t have the capital to compete and audiences won’t stay on their sites long enough to purchase their products.

What does it mean for the UK?                             

At present, the changes to net neutrality will only affect the United States.

The UK is covered by the EU’s Regulation on Open Internet Access, which ensures that ISPs cannot block or slow down data for competitive or commercial purposes.

Fortunately, the EU’s net neutrality rules are some of the strongest in the world. However, these rules may not be enforced in the UK after Brexit.

So, in case the worst happens, and net neutrality is repealed in the UK too, you need to start preparing now.

Build up your social media presence and improve your place in the search rankings so people will be able to find you whatever happens. This will really help you compete with big businesses in the long-run.

If the UK government decides to make changes to net neutrality, small businesses and internet consumers alike should be prepared to take a stand. After all, these are the groups who’ll be most affected.

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