What Does The FCC’s Decision To End Net Neutrality Mean For Marketers?

By | 2017-12-15T11:25:46+00:00 December 4th, 2017|Advertising, Marketing, Net Neutrality, Technology|

Net Neutrality has been a topic of vigorous debate for a few years now. But none more so than recently, when the FCC voted to scrap the legislation enacted in 2015 that requires internet service providers in the U.S. to treat all web traffic equally.

In case you’re not familiar with the concept of Net Neutrality, here’s a general definition from Wikipedia:

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication.

For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.

The vote to repeal Net Neutrality is set to give more power to the oligopoly of major internet service providers such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

Whilst there’s a general consensus amongst information activists and free speech advocates that ending net neutrality is likely to adversely affect the general public, it looks as though marketers, businesses and startups have a legitimate cause for concern too.

From what I’ve read on the subject, it seems as though most major marketing publications agree that abolishing Net Neutrality is a bad idea, for a variety of reasons.

The Drum published an article that curated the opinions of various digital and communication experts across a number of industries.

Some of the arguments against dismantling Net Neutrality include:

  • Abolishing Net Neutrality would consolidate power for the major ISPs in a market that’s already dominated by just a handful of names. This would inevitably discourage competition from challenger ISPs.
  • Data accuracy also becomes a problem when it comes to analytical reporting. In a digital environment where Net Neutrality doesn’t exist, adverts may load up at varying speeds – causing a disruption to data metrics.
  • An absence of Net Neutrality could create barriers to entry for startups that cannot afford to pay for the premium bandwidth that their larger counterparts can. This, in turn, runs the risk of stifling innovation.

You’d be forgiven for assuming that the only party set to benefit from the removal of Net Neutrality is the ISPs themselves. However, John Barker, founder of BARKER ad agency, thinks that the ISPs are the ones who lose out in the long term.

‘Ironically, I think the biggest losers in the long run will be the cable and telecom giants who derive the immediate benefit from overturning net neutrality. Any time you become greedy or cynical toward consumers, you become a target for disruption. So some entrepreneur will roll out free national Wi-Fi, and it’s game over.’

Despite all of the panic, marketing and technology consultant Shelly Palmer thinks there’s a silver lining in the disposal of Net Neutrality for agencies, advertisers and marketers.

‘This could be a perfect opportunity to pair programmatic creative with programmatic media buying. There will be hundreds of different rate plans targeted at specific cohorts. There will also be opportunities to create new consumer and brand experiences that include “unlimited” bandwidth or “free” bandwidth offers.’

Since the vote took place, the internet has responded proportionately, particularly on the Subreddit r/NetNeutrality. Equally, the marketing community has overwhelming condemned the decision from the FCC.

So far, it isn’t certain what the future looks like for marketers in the absence of Net Neutrality. But one thing is for sure – the decision is likely to affect us all.

It will be interesting to see how brands react to the decision in the coming weeks.

I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled.

About the Author:

Jamie Neal
Jamie follows all things digital marketing, with a primary focus on consumer behaviour, branding and creative content. Jamie also keeps a close eye on new developments in the evolving world of social media.


  1. Emma Parker December 14, 2017 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    The internet would be a completely different place if it weren’t for the Net Neutrality rules. Without Net Neutrality, it will be no different than that crappy cable TV service which shows a limited number of channels, all with bad picture quality. Unlike the open internet which paved the way for so much innovation, people will be forced to use a closed down network. Only cable and phone companies will have the power to call the shots and decide which websites or applications be given the right to be accessed by their users. Furthermore, ISPs like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast will be able to decide who is heard and who isn’t. They could block or slow down access to any websites that bad-mouth or compete with their own offerings. And as if that wasn’t enough, they will be able to split the internet into different packages or bundles, a model which has worked well for cable companies over the years, meaning you will have to pay more to access the sites or services you want.

    • Jamie Neal
      Jamie Neal December 15, 2017 at 10:52 am - Reply

      Hi Emma, thanks for stopping by and sharing your perspective. I think most people would agree with what you’re saying about the dangers of repealing Net Neutrality. It seems as though this is a defining moment in the history of the internet and my hope is that we can get more people to understand the issue and get involved in the debate.

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