What does internet regulation and net neutrality mean for digital marketing? Read on for an opinion from the #Nerdherd.
In some ways, it’s strange to watch net neutrality emerge from its humble beginnings in internet forum discussions, sci-fi tinged conspiracy theories, and well-meaning but often hilariously ineloquent political speeches and grow into one of the biggest political flash-points of this year.
If you told 15 year-old me that in less than ten years massive internet corporations would hold a monopoly over bandwidth with the power to box out websites and strangle subversive voices on the web, I would not have been very surprised. I certainly wasn’t surprised to hear that the United States government spends incredible amounts of resources to monitor people across the world, or that people are addicted to their smartphones. Blame it on my longer-than-usual teenage Radiohead phase and the fact that I probably just got done reading "1984" for the 3rd time, but I was (clearly) not alone in my fears of a highly corporatized digital future.
In the wake of the FCC’s February 26th decision to regulate the internet like they regulate telecommunications, critics from across the business landscape have crawled out of the woodwork to express concerns about government regulation. Opponents of the FCC’s decision warn of an impending slowdown in physical network building, stifling the development of better wired and wireless networks in the US and abroad. Some have even gone as far as suggesting that net neutrality will destroy competition in the ISP industry.
However, if you’re like most people, you’re probably too busy celebrating the fact that Netflix is never going to be held hostage for their bandwidth hogging to even think twice about complaints about regulation. Ironically, even the most pro-free-market pundits fail to recognize that the ISP industry is painfully monopolistic and uncompetitive regardless of net neutrality rules, mainly because of sky-high barriers to entry. It’s unlikely that allowing practices like IP discrimination, protocol discrimination, or the feared pay-to-play fast tracks would lead to anything that really looks like capitalism—it’d just be a bigger and scarier monopoly.
Why It Means for Digital Marketing
As you might expect, the net neutrality is a huge win for Adpearance and the digital marketing world broadly. Digital marketing helps businesses succeed because they supply the world wide web with helpful content and look good doing it, not because they can throw the most cash in the running. Conversely, ISP’s wouldn’t give a click whether or not your website looks good or fosters good user experience; they would just want you to buy into the fast lane so your content could be delivered to users at a higher speed.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of research that correlates low site speed with people running in horror from your website, and it’s not hard to see why. If your site is loading at the same speed that the last 10 minutes of my Friday workday go by, then I’m going to be out of there faster than you can say “instant gratification.” That means your website isn’t going anywhere unless you’re paying the ISP gatekeeper to let you pass—even if your technologies, strategies, advertisements, and content are top-tier.
Like legions of critics have said before, the world’s biggest internet breakthroughs seem to come solely from the dorm rooms of everyday nerds, not from businesses who can afford to pay for preferential treatment. The real magic behind the internet is that it runs on equality: the president of your country gets the same mediocre Comcast service you do and probably uses the same web browser too. Keeping that kind of equality around means ambitious college kids can continue to supply me with mindless internet games or maybe go on to solve some of the world’s more pressing problems.
While we’re still awaiting the inevitable legal pushback from the anti-net neutrality crowd, life on the internet is looking a little rosier than expected for now.