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3 Reasons Why Obama’s Plan for Net Neutrality Matters For Your Business

by Peter Thomas Ricci

President Obama came out in support of net neutrality this week, and his proposals could be instrumental in protecting the Internet – and your business.

Advocates for net neutrality received a huge vote of confidence this week from President Obama, who released a detailed statement not only supporting net neutrality, but also outlining steps the FCC should take to maintain the Internet’s present structure.

“Net neutrality” is really an elegant way for describing how the Internet currently functions, meaning a neutral playground that anyone, regardless of the power of their computer or their Internet package, can access; so in other words, you can access Amazon on your iPad via RCN, and your next-door neighbor can access the same site using their Dell desktop via Comcast – unlike how cable TV operates, there’s nothing in place to violate that arrangement and limit what sites you can access. It also extends to businesses, and how a fledgling start-up has access to the same Internet as an established company.

The War for Net Neutrality – and How it Affects Your Business

Internet providers, though (such as Verizon and Comcast) have made gestures in recent years against net neutrality, and have begun taking steps towards reforming the Internet in the same manner as television; so in other words, unlike today’s Internet, where anyone can access any site, an Internet provider would ostensibly sell you Internet packages that would not only control the speed of your Internet, but also the websites you could access with your Internet connection – and, in the case of real estate, the websites you could build for your business.

As you can tell, net neutrality has enormous implications for the real estate business; indeed, it becomes difficult to keep track of all the ways it could affect your business:

1. Internet fees, for instance, could eat up a much larger share of a brokerage’s business, especially if they are a smaller brokerage without the resources of a Coldwell Banker or Keller Williams.

2. Internet traffic could shift by an even greater degree to the Zillows and Trulias of the world – aka, the websites with the technological (and financial) moxie to boast stronger Internet speeds.

3. Most notable of all, your listings could be seen by a smaller share of consumers; if only certain people have the necessary Internet packages for your listing site, then your exposure will be greatly limited, and you’ll end up buying more marketing packages from more sites to make up for that lost exposure…and that’s even if your website has a chance, and consumers are not instead frequenting existing sites from deeper-pocketed agents with faster speeds.

An Uncertain Future

In his comments, President Obama urged the FCC to treat the Internet as a utility, and to prohibit any blocking, throttling (speed divergences across packages), and paid prioritization, along with increasing transparency.

What remains uncertain is how the FCC will react to the president’s suggestions, and more importantly, how Internet providers will respond. However it plays out, this passage from Gizmodo’s article on the president’s comments captures the urgency of the topic well: “this policy shift will either make or break the future of the Internet.”

Indeed.

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