The issue of net neutrality has been in the news again lately. And if some of the geeky discussions about packet throttling, peer-to-peer networks and torrents tempts you to tune out, don’t. Net neutrality is an important issue, especially for Realtors and other small businesses.
At the heart of the issue is whether or not Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Comcast, Bellsouth, Brighthouse and the like can give some content on their networks priority over other content. Basically, without net neutrality, content providers could be asked to pay a fee to have their content prioritized, or even streamed at a better/faster rate, than other content. Great news for deep-pocketed content providers (think Disney, Time-Warner, Fox, etc.) ready to expand their reach and influence. Not so good news for the millions of individuals and small businesses who rely on the Internet to maintain a level playing field, Realtors included.
For example, do you currently post videos/virtual tours to YouTube? Without net neutrality, consumers may find it more difficult to locate and access your content…unless you pay a fee of course. Or maybe your website, along with all your listings, photos, etc., won’t load as quickly as your competition’s website.
Of course, some of the large national/international real estate firms could potentially pay to ensure all of their agents’ content gets top priority online. But let’s face it, those costs will be passed on to you, the agent, one way or another.
When the Internet first moved into the mainstream in the early ‘90s, it was widely hailed as the great equalizer. Individuals and small businesses could publish online just as quickly and cost-effectively as major corporations…maybe more so. The result was a whole slew of innovation and new businesses, including some of the household names we know today.
For instance, without net neutrality, we might never have heard of companies such as Amazon, eBay, Zappos, YouTube, MySpace and others. We might not have ever heard of a small movie called The Blair Witch Project, or ever had access to a little social network run out of a college dorm room called Facebook.
Of course, we wouldn’t have had to watch the Dancing Baby, Keyboard Cat or Trololo man. And nobody would have ever been Rickrolled. But that’s beside the point.
The point is, an Internet that treats all legal content equally, and gives all users access to that content equally, is what has led to much of the growth and innovation we’ve experienced over the last 15 to 20 years. The Google/Verizon discussions are even more troubling, as they aim to essentially eliminate net neutrality on the fastest growing segment of the Internet, wireless networks (consider how many people access your content from smartphones or a laptop using a 3G connection). Surrendering control of online content to a cabal of large corporations and government bureaucrats is a recipe for disaster.
To learn more about net neutrality: