If you’re anything like me, you tuned in to the net neutrality debate right about
the time Season 2 of House of Cards debuted on Netflix. I’m a Verizon customer, and the dispute between the company and Netflix led to crawling speeds and blurry picture quality — enough to drive me to find other avenues to watch Kevin Spacey fight his way to power.
But net neutrality affects more than video content. The recent proposal from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends classifying broadband services as telecommunications services, instead of their current classification as information services. This move would affect any content delivered online, whether it’s video, audio or text.
The end of net neutrality would open the door for Internet Services Providers (ISPs) like Verizon and Time Warner to essentially play favorites with content providers such as Netflix and Google. ISPs would be able to charge content providers extra for faster speeds. Those who can afford it could opt to pay for fast-lane delivery of their content to consumers, while those who can’t pay or refuse to pay will be stuck with slower speeds.
The FCC invited public comments on its proposal and recently extended the deadline to last Friday at midnight. The tally closed with 1.4 million comments. Commenters included tech giants such as Facebook and Google, who spoke out against the proposal as part of the trade group called the Internet Association. “It shifts the balance from the consumers’ freedom of choice to the broadband Internet access providers’ gate-keeping decisions,” the group said in a statement.
These tech companies and others speaking out against the FCC’s proposal realize that the end of net neutrality would drastically change the face of the Internet — including content marketing. Here are the top three ways content marketing could be affected by the FCC’s proposal:
1. An Even Playing Field Would Become Rocky
The Internet is a great equalizer — and so is content marketing. Anyone with a good idea has at least a fighting chance of getting it off the ground in this equal opportunity landscape.
Net neutrality helps ensure that anyone with something to say can grow their audience. The new proposal takes direct aim at this idea of an even playing field. Anyone who can’t afford to pay for the fast lane will start out at a disadvantage. Their content will be delivered more slowly than their competitors’ content, and many users will gradually migrate to faster content.
2. Niche Audiences Will Move to the Masses
Today, niche audiences can find each other and build a community online, and small businesses can reach their customer bases even if they’re small. But these smaller content players can’t compete with the big guys and their deep pockets. Top companies that can and will pay for faster speeds will continue to grow their audiences, stealing users away from other web properties that can’t load their content as quickly. Niche audiences will never disappear entirely online, but under the FCC’s rules many small user groups will gravitate to larger, faster sites frequented by the masses.
3. Higher Internet Rates = Higher Content Distribution Costs
As fast-lane sites attract more users, they’ll also attract marketers — but that placement will cost more. The price of content distribution tactics such as social media, content syndication and advertising will rise on sites that are paying for better service. On the flip side, those content creators that can’t afford the fast lane will see a reduction in content income and partnerships.
The end of net neutrality will mean the end of one of the best parts of the Internet: The fact that anyone can jump in and compete with anyone else. It will have widespread effects across a number of industries, including content marketing. Join the conversation and submit your own comments to the FCC at www.fcc.gov/comments.