What do the New US Net Neutrality Laws Mean for Digital Marketing?
One of the biggest tech news stories to come out over the last few months was the decision by the United States government to abolish their net neutrality laws. There has been so much protest, debate, and buzz surrounding this issue, it’s really easy to get lost.
This has led a lot of people to question what net neutrality is, what this means for the US, Canadian, and global marketing industry as a whole?
This is a really important issue and one that deserves open conversation and continued debate. But in order to discuss this, we need to first have an understanding of what net neutrality is.
What is Net Neutrality?
The idea behind net neutrality first came about in 2003 from a media law professor at Columbia University and it has grown from there. The concept is all Internet traffic should be treated equally. Meaning, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should not be able to intentionally block, slow down, or charge extra money for specific websites, or various types of online content.
You may have also seen the term Open Internet. Often times, the idea of Open Internet goes hand-in-hand with the term net neutrality. Open Internet, essentially, means the same thing – all areas of the Internet should be easily accessible to everyone: individuals, companies, and organizations.
Net Neutrality in the United States
Recently in the States, federal regulators voted to end the rules protecting net neutrality, leaving the future of Internet regulation to the telecommunication companies. This gives telecom companies the potential to change how they provide the Internet to their consumers.
Essentially, the future of the Internet in the United States could look similar to cable subscription packages, where you would need to purchase a package allowing you access to certain areas of the Internet or have your Internet throttled based on the rates you pay. It could also give the ISPs the ability to block content from their competitors.
As of right now, none of the big providers have announced any changes, but that could change.
Net Neutrality in Canada
Canada’s laws surrounding net neutrality are among some of the strictest in the world. Canada’s ISPs are required, by law, to provide neutral service to their customers. According to the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission):
- We believe that it is important that all Canadians have access to choice, innovation and free exchange of ideas. If Internet providers price content differently, they are, in a way, influencing you to choose certain content over other[s].
- That’s why we decided that Internet providers must treat data traffic the same, regardless of content.
- Internet providers should compete on the quality of their networks, by lowering their prices or increasing data allowances instead of treating certain content differently.
In April of 2017, the CRTC strengthened the laws around net neutrality by announcing ISPs should “treat data traffic equally to foster consumer choice, innovation and the free exchange of ideas.” You can look at the CRTC net neutrality legislation here to see exactly what it says.
Do the New Net Neutrality Laws in the US mean Anything for Canadian Laws?
Likely not – Canada has among the toughest net neutrality laws in the world. But this will likely spark stronger lobbying and debate from certain telecom companies that have always been against net neutrality. However, Canadian net neutrality laws are mandated at the federal level and are unlikely to change in the near future.
Why Net Neutrality is Important for Digital Marketing
The idea of consumers having to pay extra for some of the content we create will immediately mean a decrease in reach. It means we will have to capture the attention of our audiences so strongly they will be enticed to pay extra just to see our content.
There are a lot of questions that come out of this.
One question that comes to mind when thinking about this is – what does this mean for Search Results? Will consumers be able to see our content in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), but unable to load the content in their browser? Or will Search Engines have to dynamically determine what the user is allowed to see and only display results compliant with their Internet package?
Another question is in regards to social media efforts. If our audience has only purchased a social media package from their ISP, will we have to change our entire strategy for content? If they can see the content we publish on our social media feeds, but can’t click through to our website, that creates a negative user experience and they will likely fall off.
How will this affect all of the external links on our pieces of content? If users can’t click through, is there any point including links in our posts?
If we are Canadian companies that have a presence in the United States, will we be able to continue to do business and reach our audience successfully? Should ISPs move to this new model – likely not.
The list of questions as it pertains to digital marketing is almost endless. There could be huge potential for a major shift in SEO and digital marketing as a whole in the coming years – and it’s almost impossible to get ready for it.