slow traffic ahead
People are under the impression that the loss of net neutrality only affects Silicon Valley — that's wrong and here's why PHOTO: Joshua Ganderson

Yesterday we saw the day of action on net neutrality. Companies, activists and citizens weighed in on why net neutrality is a good thing — including here on CMSWire.

Everything that collection of very smart people said is correct and worth reading. But they didn't touch on one thing: how the elimination of net neutrality could impact your company and how you do business. 

And no, I'm not thinking you're creating the next Netflix or Box. I am talking about how you, your employees and your customers work together. Everyone working from home, in a café or anywhere not directly connected to the same internal network relies on the internet to share information. 

What will happen to your business when that ability is restricted?

Net Neutrality's Effect on Productivity

As I write this article, I am storing it in the cloud. When I am done, I will email it to the editorial staff and await their feedback. When it is published, I will Tweet and otherwise share it with clients, prospects, colleagues and the world. 

All of that will take longer if the traffic to the servers running that software is charged a fee for unrestricted access.

Earlier today, we held an agile sprint planning session for a project. We had participants from three locations connected over the internet for audio and video. We shared screens and constantly referred to images that were stored in our online documentation to help determine the complexity of what would be in the scope of the next sprint. 

All of that took bandwidth. And having all of the components in sync during the discussions mattered.

Live collaboration, sharing large chunks of content, leveraging the right cloud service for the task — all of that is threatened if net neutrality is dismantled. While I can pay for my systems to have the necessary speed, I can’t do that for my service providers. 

If performance suffers, I may have to switch providers. That will likely cost me more as the new provider passes on its costs. I will also have to take time away from executing on my company’s mission to move information from one provider to another. 

I can only hope the migration of data won’t be significantly hindered by the speed variances.

Net Neutrality's Effect on Paying for SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a tricky field. Google keeps changing the rules as it works to identify the best content. 

One of the rules that has remained consistent since 2010 is prioritizing results by load time. Load time is going to matter for the foreseeable future based on recent guidance.

Without net neutrality, your SEO efforts will get a little dicey.

If you aren’t paying for improved speed, your website will load slower on everyone’s device. Aside from the negative impact to the user experience and first impressions, it will lower your ranking on Google. Your company, non-profit and personal blog will be that much harder for people to find. If your website helps generate leads, your marketing funnel is going to shrink.

And if you are a new business looking to get attention, your ability to get noticed will be that much harder and cost that much more.

Net Neutrality's Effect on Your Bottom Line

Lost productivity means higher costs to deliver. Lost visibility on the internet means higher costs to acquire customers. Fixing that by paying all the providers the fees to prioritize your traffic is also a cost, just one that can be more readily budgeted.

Keep in mind: it won’t end. 

When internet access first started, you had dial-up access where speed depended on your equipment quality. Then DSL was offered as a higher-priced option. New competitors entered the market with high-speed internet. Over time those providers created tiers of speed that you could purchase. You now pay for the speed of internet you want — provided you live in an area the carriers cover.

That scenario will repeat itself, but this time, for content providers. 

When the internet service providers have sold all the high priority access they can, they will create a higher tier for those customers willing to pay more. They may take a page from the mobile carriers — in some cases part of the same company — and charge based on how much information you send via high speed. That will really hurt companies sharing large content such as documents, audio and video. You could decide to outsource that storage to a third party who pays for speed, but those costs will be pushed down to you.

The bottom line is this: if the FCC succeeds in repealing net neutrality, it will hit your bottom line. 

So contact your Representatives, Senators and the FCC. Make your voice heard. Let people know this impacts more than Silicon Valley startups. The repeal of net neutrality will limit innovation inside every company, widening the divide between market leaders and market challengers.

Are you willing to bet on which side of the divide you will fall?