Why should you care about net neutrality

Today’s news that Google and Verizon have struck a deal that will end the internet as we know has barely made even a trickle in the Twitter-sphere. Everyone there is still talking about the demise of Google Wave. The Huffington Post, The NY Times and Fast Company have all reported on the Google-Verizon deal, but it just hasn’t gotten any traction. Smart move on Google’s part to can Wave the day before they have to refute the news of this potential partnership.

The only reason I can think that this isn’t bigger news to social media advocates, experts and aficionados is that not everyone understands the complete impact.

Why should you care about Net Neutrality. Indeed, why should I?

Here’s why. The internet has always been a highly democratic place. It doesn’t cost much to have a presence and aside from your actual internet connection its virtually the same for all of us. All things equal, my site loads as quickly as say, Google’s. Arguably, I could be getting the same amount of traffic as Google and you wouldn’t notice a single bit of difference in its performance.

That’s about to change.

If Google and Verizon strike this deal, sites unwilling (or unable) to pay for priority service will load more slowly and potentially be rendered impotent.

The reason this is such a big deal is that we are in the “Age of Content” where everyone who wants one, has a voice.  And even if you don’t have a voice, if you’re on any kind of social media campaign, your LOOKING for relevant content.

From a small business perspective, you have to ask: how will this effect my business? If you do sales on the net. It will effect you. If you blog or offer other information to drive traffic to your page, this will effect you. If you are a magazine who relies on traffic to drive advertising revenue, this will effect you. If you are a restaurant that puts special menu information on your site, it effects you.  In other words, no one is immune.

Furthermore, in the age of dying newspapers, we are all relying more and more on independent voices and sources for our news, particularly our local news. Some of the most interesting bloggers on the net today, and in particular, Hawaii, aren’t blogging because they are getting rich. They blog to share and educate, because they  think its important.  Presumably, the cost to get a speed upgrade from your ISP will be out of reach (at least initially) to everyone BUT Verizon, Google, IBM and the New York Times. The question remains as to whether the FCC will get involved? Notably, both Verizon and Google have denied that this arrangement is in the works. But it raises an important question: are we ready for increased costs on the net? Are we ready to be held hostage to  PUBLISH? Its one thing to pay for content, its another thing to pay to have your voice heard.

Ironically, perhaps this will actually be good for some social media platforms. Companies are already using Facebook as a defacto landing page for their company. Maybe companies will increase their usage of this tactic -presumably, we can add Facebook to the list of companies who can afford to pay for premium loading speed. Often, the Twitterosphere picks up on news before the media does; maybe we can accept our news in 140 characters or less.

But as a content writer, reader and sharer, I think the end of net neutrality is bad news for the democracy of the internet for social media marketers. I think its bad for small business and I think its bad for users in general. The entire essence of social media is sharing, openly and without reservation. If Google and Verizon strike this deal, then the last pantheon of “don’t be evil” has vanished along with the openness and freedom of the sharing information on the net.  Once again, information will be controlled largely by a small group.

For more information:

PC World: Net Neutrality: Are Google and Verizon Waffling?

NYTimes: Net Neutrality

Huffington Post: FCC Abondons Efforts at Net Neutrality Compromise.

FastCompany: Google, Verizon Call New York Times’s Net Neutrality Report “Quite Simply Wrong”