There has been an ongoing conversation on how to police a decentralized, borderless territory'the internet. Both our industry, and the public, has begun to question: who has the authority to govern the web? This week, we are continuing the discussion.
Part II: Cable-ization
The general public strives to avoid the cable-ization of the internet. Cable-ization? It's a term for following the traditional model for cable TV: offering premium content for a cost which creates tiers of viewers. Instead, most web users hope for net neutrality'an open and democratic Internet. (If you're looking for a more eloquent, yet slightly off-colored, definition, Jon Stewart should be consulted.)
The battle to secure this utopia wages on. So, why does the public care so much about internet freedom?
a) People are worried about stifling innovation. A large company with a large budget can more easily compromise the success of smaller competitors. For instance, you're a web user with a small budget who believes you're the next Mark Zuckerberg. But, you're discouraged in your entrepreneurial pursuits as your competitors fly by you in the internet express lane.
b) People are worried about the effect on their daily lives. Some web users prophesize of applications slowing to a crawl, or of outrageous 'pay for speed'? schemes. Others talk about an internet where content is moderated by the whims of network providers. And still others hypothesize a time where bloggers are silenced, and web access becomes political.
Despite this (sometimes eccentric) fear, no one can seem to agree on where the FCC holds jurisdiction and at what point legislators should step in.
Recently, Google and Verizon decided that, being such behemoths on the web, they should intervene. Googizon's joint proposal promotes a 'healthy and growing internet that can continue to be a laboratory for innovation'?. They believe that the FCC should be the main enforcer and disciplinarian when it comes to net neutrality transgressions. In the past, the FCC has been outspoken about their desire to regulate broadband providers and has searched long and hard for legal standing.
Many people have argued that their suggestions are out of self-interest and are a step in the wrong direction. The dispute revolves around mobile, a topic which the duo conveniently avoided while crafting this proposal. But the issue of mobile is still imperative, since, as we all know, the majority of people will be accessing the internet from their phones in the foreseeable future.
Consumers have looked to the FCC to help put some of the fears to rest. The House has also recently become involved (ominously, they fell flat on their faces this week). So, what's the solution?
A Point of View
I fall somewhere in between the spectrum of crazies'a free-market could eventually have some severe consequences on our online experience, but so could full government involvement. Regardless of the outcome, the marketing industry should be made aware of the potential cost of losing net neutrality.
Most apparently, what's the effect on SEO? If providers are free to moderate content, and you frequently advertise rich media, you are vulnerable to slowing load times, sinking SEO rankings, and increasing PPCs.
On a macro level, competition is a prerequisite to advertising. The exception is if you are a well-established brand, than competition just demands more advertising dollars. A partitioned internet would be in your favor, deterring competition from easily entering your space. But, for everyone else, preserving this competition should be sacred.
Ignoring our egoism for a moment, have we considered what precedents are being set by other countries; globally, how are we dealing with authority online? As the internet increasingly becomes a truly international space, we need to look beyond solving digital problems in a vacuum. Continue to follow our series on online authority over the next few weeks to tackle more of these issue and to participate in the conversation.