The proposed removal of net neutrality is a real cause for concern for the tech industry. The current regulations, implemented back in 2015, contend that there is equal access to everything on the internet, regardless of whether it belongs to a small business owner or to a large corporation. Its existence prohibits internet service providers (ISP's) from slowing down, speeding up or blocking any of the content that its users can access. With unbiased connection from ISP's, the web essentially acts as a level playing field for businesses, with free, unrestricted access. Net neutrality's primary function is to protect individuals and businesses right to communicate freely online.
Unsurprisingly, a 2017 study by Nutt.io found that 60% of Americans support net neutrality, with only 17% actively against it and 23% unsure. Yet, on the 14th of December 2017, the FCC voted to deregulate ISPs by eliminating the agency's net neutrality rules. This was an incredibly drastic step and they've since faced fierce criticism. Many argue that it would be a huge step back for both businesses and the individual and Senate Democrats - led by Ed Markey - are fighting to overrule the decision. So exactly what are peoples' concerns with the loss of net neutrality and what will it mean for the tech industry?
Disparity Between Small Companies and Big Corporations
The main concern is that without regulation ISP's will be able to take advantage of their control over the speed of connectivity their consumers receive. The potential for them to start charging for access and for institutions to get access to certain consumers is a very worrying likelihood. Data prioritization could suddenly become a massive expense for businesses which is a huge concern for small companies who don't have room in their budgets for the fee. Without access to certain speeds and certain consumers, small businesses will struggle to keep up with their larger competitors, inevitably losing customers to bigger organizations and failing to gain new ones. The disparity between small companies and big corporations will become even greater and inevitably many small businesses will have to close altogether. Rolling back on net neutrality rules has the dangerous potential to rapidly increase homogeneity within a number of industries.
It Will Effect Enterprise Mobility
The ripple effect of the FCC's decision could also result in disruption for burgeoning enterprises. With the potential for ISP's to show preferential treatment for some streaming services or to charge extra for 'fast lane' internet access, enterprise applications could end up being slowed down significantly. In an interview with CIO.com, Jack Gold, principle analyst for J. Gold Associates addressed this concern: 'imagine if you're a company and all your apps are in the cloud and hosted by a company that isn't part of the fast lane because they don't want to pay extra. In that case, there could be a slow response to enterprise apps. May not be a big difference if it's just a small delay, but who knows how long it will be?' With modern consumers demanding immediate response from their applications, IPS reducing the internet speeds could drastically impact the success of an enterprise.
Slowing the Development of IoT Devices
The IoT has thrived under net neutrality, as the freedom of internet speed has resulted in companies having access to the data and the consumers they need for their IoT products to succeed. And the abolishment of net neutrality not only affects streaming content, it will also interfere with the data available for IoT devices. In fact, since there are fewer ISP monopolies for wired services, wireless services will most likely be hit the hardest. Startup companies often drive the innovation behind IoT, but because they tend to be a smaller size with limited finances, they may struggle to pay high fees for unfettered access to the internet. This could stifle their development as while IPS are able to decide internet speeds, the data for their IoT devices might not be delivered for analysis quickly enough to make the effective. In the worst case scenarios, it might not be delivered at all. The loss of net neutrality could make access to speedy internet difficult, and leave new companies uncertain of the best ways to connect IoT devices. Small tech enterprises in the IoT sector may have to close, and new ones will struggle to take their place.
Stifling Economic Growth and Innovation
With big businesses potentially being favored by ISP's and smaller enterprises being priced out of the market by the pay-for-play charges, the very businesses that have helped revive and grow the economy will be struggling. Without the diversity of smaller companies and enterprises, ideas will be stunted and innovation will be hindered across the board. While it could be argued that the pressure put on companies by IPS could lead to innovative solutions, such as the development of devices needing less data to function, it could radically slow down operations, even be putting enterprises off starting at all.
Marginalization of Certain Groups
The deregulation of ISPs is not just a problem within the business world, the implications for society at large could potentially be devastating. With bigger corporations given more power through faster internet, they will end up with significant control over what content is shared with everyone online. This means that groups using the internet to raise awareness for their causes will lose their voice and their power, becoming even more marginalized.
Overall, the loss of net neutrality will likely result in mass homogenization. This will impact both businesses and society, as the lack of diversity will stifle new ideas and innovations across the board.