A mid-December FCC vote is expected to put an end to net neutrality. Though many horrifyingly negative consequences are on the horizon should this be true, among the less considered is what may happen to the way digital marketing works.
Let’s just think about the impact that net neutrality has had on keeping the internet a free, open community of websites. Since the mid-1990s, the internet has always been a level playing field of all businesses and internet service providers, encouraging growth and free thought. In this framework, small businesses could successfully compete with and win over much larger corporations. There was no preference given or pricing disadvantage that meant small websites did not have a fair shot at gaining visitors. With the end of the net neutrality, this shifts the dynamic to a place where internet service providers (ISPs) essentially decide who wins and loses.
If net neutrality is left gone with the wind, internet providers would then be given the right to block sites that they don’t like, to charge premium fees for access to sites, and/or to purposefully slow internet speeds on certain websites. This means websites having to pay more to get a fair look from consumers, something that admittedly gives larger corporations the advantage because of the budget they’re working with compared to what small businesses have.
How this will impact online marketing is in creating a system whereby you essentially need to pay for success. For example, freemium marketing involves making a product or service available for free online throughout a defined time period. This is easy marketing as it puts product in the hands of interested users and gets the word out in a big way. Without net neutrality, these companies’ websites may not see the same level of access, may have to pay the internet service provider to let them proceed, or customers may have to pay to access a freemium marketer’s offer.
Content marketing and inbound marketing strategies may not work so well anymore either as they will have to deal with blocking and access fees. To succeed, especially if it’s video content marketing, a company may have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to get their content on quality internet speeds. Across the broad, the end of net neutrality drives up costs for everyone, including the customer, and puts the power into the hands of ISPs.
The theories on the end of net neutrality are well communicated though no one actually knows what may happen should the internet be exposed to ISP dominance like this.
What is likely are radical changes in how online marketing works and it’s not entirely clear what the next set of circumstances may bring with it. A move like this may effectively push out small businesses and entrepreneurs, creating an uneven, corporatized internet.
Know that, today, every individual, every website, and every company are equal on the internet. Following the FCC vote on net neutrality, this may no longer be the case. The strategies and techniques that we use today to successfully deliver online marketing results may be about to see some pretty massive changes and admittedly, if this vote goes through like we think it will, there’s no telling what the future holds for small business marketing on the internet.