If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve likely heard about the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposal to repeal net neutrality rules that would change the internet we know and love. Currently, all traffic is being handled the same way and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can’t pick and choose which websites people get access to and which we don’t – but that might be changing. Under the proposed bill, ISPs like Verizon and AT&T would be considered “information services”, meaning they would be able to block any content they don’t agree with or they could decide to charge more money for users to access certain websites.
Other than the deep impact this would have on our personal lives (can you imagine having to add a ‘social media’ package to your internet bill just to use Facebook and Instagram or a ‘news package’ to access websites like The Washington Post or even your local paper’s website?!), there is a huge potential to shake up the online marketing industry – and not in the cool and exciting way.
Ending Net Neutrality Creates an Unequal Playing Field
Right now, if a company decides to create a website for their brand, they technically have the same opportunities to generate traffic to their site as huge websites like Amazon because every internet user has the same internet access to those websites. If the new bill passes, that could change. If ISPs decide that internet users need to pay more to access less popular websites. It would be hard for a brand to grow their business if many internet users are not willing to pay the extra money to access websites like theirs.
Then What about Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing?
If access to certain websites is restricted without having to pay more, smaller and growing brands will need to rethink their content and inbound marketing strategies. What is working now – pushing content out on their website, social channels, through email, etc. – might not be as effective in the future if users have to pay to access your website or to download your content.
Online Advertising’s Obstacles
The Google Display Network is a collection of millions of websites. Even with narrowed targeting options, there are still a vast number of relevant websites advertisers will want to show their ads on. The proposal from the FCC would drastically impact advertisers’ visibility of their ads if many internet users cannot access websites without paying more. Martech Today predicts advertisers may even have to pay more to have their ads shown to users, especially if they are using video ads.
Competition Will Go Away, but that Won’t Help Your Brand
Unless you’re one of the top websites, you won’t be able to compete with the likes of them at all because the internet would be dominated by them. Think of housewares manufacturers who sell both through retailers and direct-to-consumer on their website. The competition is already tough, but with the right strategy, a brand can pull through and shine. Without net neutrality, there is essentially no chance for smaller brands to get noticed.
The FCC is meeting today to decide the fate of the internet, which would affect not only our personal lives, but our businesses and the ability for those businesses to be successful in an online world. I think MarTech summed it up nicely: “Every company, every organization and every individual has essentially the same ability to reach every internet user in the world. Larger players had bigger motors and much more fuel, but everyone used the same road.” Here’s to hoping we can continue to travel the same road as Amazon in the future.