Over the past few months, considerable debate has been held about net neutrality and how the vote to repeal it would impact Internet users and businesses. This has been an extremely contentious issue, as debates have raged across Internet forums and websites. Recent surveys indicate that approximately 60 percent of people supported net neutrality, with 17 percent opposed it. We believe it is also important to look at how these regulations may impact digital and online marketing.
What exactly is net neutrality?
In 2015, the FCC had decided to classify Internet service providers as ‘common carriers’. This meant that all the traffic they handled had to be processed the same way. They could not provide faster access to certain sites, block content that has been deemed ‘lawful’, or prioritize certain traffic in return for favors.
The FCC has now put forth their proposed new law, which has been titled, “Restore Internet Freedom”. Under these guidelines, the FCC will have more power to govern the privacy policies of ISPs. This will also open the possibility of ISPs favoring certain sites over others, such as Hulu over Netflix, forcing customers to use the preferred for faster speed or pay more for the privilege of visiting certain content providers.
Will there be any positive impacts for businesses?
With the fall of Internet neutrality, some brands may be able to take advantage of the new landscape by offering ‘free’ or ‘unlimited’ bandwidth opportunities for customers. Designing sites that make it easier for customers to browse without experiencing any slow-downs might become important opportunities for creating a positive impression on consumers.
The possibility of creating more effective advertising opportunities also remains. Some brands may be able to successfully pair advertising opportunities with specific media pricing plans, thus empowering them with a stronger, more effective means to reach prospects who fall into particular cohorts.
What will be the negative repercussions for businesses?
Businesses that cannot afford to use high-speed bandwidth will find themselves at a disadvantage, as will anyone who competes with the big businesses that find favor with the ISPs. They might have trouble getting their content in front of their audience, making it challenging for them to effectively grow their organization.
Previously, online marketing was known for producing ‘freemium’ content that effectively engaged users without costing them financially. Now it might cost customers or content providers more to view the content of lesser-known websites. Brands themselves will also want to help make sure that their content can be viewed in the ‘fast-lanes’ of various media plans, which may come at an extra cost.
We may also see the rise in ads on neutral platforms, such as Facebook. Since the cost of reaching prospects may rise due to Internet regulations, brands may begin to place more emphasis on other online promotional opportunities.
Bringing it together
- Net neutrality assured consumers that ISPs had to treat all website content equally.
- Without that protection, ISPs will have more control over the content they show, opening up the door to ISPs favoring certain sites over others and charging customers more to access certain content providers.
- While the repeal of net neutrality may create more opportunities to customize user experiences, it will also make it harder for new or smaller businesses to get noticed and may change the way sites are constructed to reduce data usage.
The repeal of the net neutrality protections has the potential to impact digital and online marketing. Brands should remain updated on these changes so they can incorporate the latest strategies into their marketing plans. At Ballantine, our decades of experience has allowed us to witness many changes in the marketing world, and we are here to help our customers successfully navigate this one as well.
I'm the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a family-owned and operated direct mail & digital marketing company based in New Jersey. and started in 1966 by my great uncle!