Net Neutrality and Your Brand: What It Means and What Can You Do?

Net Neutrality

Say “net neutrality” and get ready for an argument. Few topics are as confusing, labyrinthine, and emotionally-charged as net neutrality. Powerful interests are arrayed on both sides of the issue, governments at all levels are involved, and it’s critical to how many businesses operate in the modern world. Even better, both sides have used the media equivalent of jazz hands and glitter glue to obfuscate the issue.

A Train Wreck Would Be “A Bit of a Mess” in Comparison

What is net neutrality? The term was coined by Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu in 2003 in a paper about online discrimination. Citing several internet service providers (ISPs) interdiction of home users of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and other ISP’s prohibition against home use of internet routers, he was concerned about the ability of ISPs to limit new technologies.

Since then, net neutrality has come to represent the idea that all traffic on the internet is equal, and should have equal access to the resources of the net.

A good way to understand net neutrality is to think about the internet as a highway. Under net neutrality, there are no slow or fast lanes, and the vehicles (data) all move along as best they can. No vehicle has any greater claim on the road than any other — no “lights and sirens”, no “17 people in the car only” lanes, no “passing only” lanes. When accidents or congestion occurs, it works itself out as best it can.

Without net neutrality, ISPs can set up “fast lanes” for some services, usually at an additional cost. Of course, having “fast lanes” inevitably creates “slow lanes” because there are only a finite number of lanes available. If you can’t pay for the fast lane… well, you know.

On Oct 1st, 2019, a federal appeals court rejected arguments to reinstate net neutrality rules that had been repealed by the FCC in 2018.  However, the court left the door open to the states to set their own rules about internet usage.  Thus far, more than 30 states have introduced or promised to introduce, legislation concerning net neutrality. Also, the October 2019 ruling is subject to appeal, so it may very well be decided by the Supreme Court.

Where does that leave your brand? Well, it depends… on exactly what your state’s laws are, and what changes may come in the future. Until then, we can offer the following suggestions:

  • If your online presence isn’t affiliated with a major telecom provider, consider using lower-resolution images and/or videos to speed load times. Check to make sure they’re not too small or grainy.
  • Because banner ads may load more slowly, begin thinking outside the box of traditional online advertising. Consider increasing your branded content on your site, sponsorships, and affiliate programs.
  • Look at your advertising metrics closely. Slower load times for ads may skew the reported results, giving you inaccurate measurements from bad data.
  • Consider increasing your social media advertising, which (so far) seems to have been minimally affected by the current regulations.
  • If your local laws allow it, investigate the cost for “fast lane” access for your brand. It may be expensive, but if you’re trying to break into a market (or aggressively expand) it might be worth the cost.

At Jexan, our team is ready to help you meet the challenges of today’s hypercompetitive online market. If you’re concerned about net neutrality’s effect on your online presence, call Jexan today and let us help move your brand to the next level!

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