As of Monday June 11th, “Net Neutrality” is no longer the law of the land. Analysts far and wide have predicted the death of a competitive internet for small businesses. It has been a concern of ours at SoundCurve – we offer internet based Business Voice Services (VoIP, Hosted PBX) primarily to small and medium sized business. We realized early on that our customer’s success is also our success. There is however room for optimism. Just like that superhero who won’t stay dead, the following reasons lead me to conclude Net Neutrality (or at least the competitive environment that it creates) still has a pulse.
Net Neutrality Lawsuits
Over a dozen entities, from large businesses to 23 State Attorneys General, have filed suit against the FCC over the repeal. These suits have been combined in to one suit to be heard by the District of Columbia Circuit, which upheld the rules twice when previously challenged by Broadband providers. Watch for the outcome of this suit.
State Government Regulations
Several states, including New York, Washington, Oregon, Vermont, Hawaii, Montana and New Jersey have implemented their own Net Neutrality regulations. Washington’s law went in to effect just this week, coinciding with the federal repeal. Additional states, including the largest (California), are considering their own rules. California is a notable example of state regulation driving the entire country’s: California’s auto vehicle smog rules are the only that differ by state, and they are far more strict than Federal smog rules. It is verty expensive to offer slightly different products in different states, even for Broadband providers who don’t need to invest in expensive assembly lines. The complexity involved in providing different products by state is usually cost prohibitive. Automakers ended up making California’s rules the standard for all cars sold in the United States.
Local Government Opposition
Over 100 US Mayors, including those of New Your City, Austin and Portland OR, have signed the “Cities Open Internet Pledge”. These mayors pledge to refuse to do business with Broadband providers who “block, throttle or provide pair prioritization of content”.
According to a poll conducted by the University of Maryland, 86% of the nation opposes the repeal of Net Neutrality, including 82% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats. Republican politicians support the repeal for the most port while Democratic politicians oppose it. Given the massive public outcry (look no further than your Facebook feed for examples) against the repeal, most Democratic candidates and a few Republicans are running on the reinstatement of Net Neutrality as a core issue of their campaign. Expect to learn more after the conclusion of the 2018 midterm elections.
The Bottom Line for Small Businesses
What does this all mean for small business owners? Savvy business owners carefully consider risk in every decision they make, especially those requiring investment. While proponents of the repeal of Net Neutrality argue investment will increase due to less regulatory uncertainty, the reality is uncertainty regarding these rules is even higher than prior to the repeal due to the reasons outlined above.
Look for little to no change in product offerings (e.g. the “internet fast lane” or “social media package”) from your Broadband provider in the near to medium term while the lawsuits are underway, regulations differ by state, and public support and political attention remains high. Some providers have outright stated they will not make any changes. Here at SoundCurve, we will continue to focus on providing extremely reliable Hosted PBX and Business VoIP services backed by industry leading customer service while investing in our customer relationships. It is business as usual for us and it should be for the small businesses that rely on an open and level internet.