The End of Net Neutrality and Why You Should Care

Tyler Warner General News, government affairs

There’s a battle ensuing in Washington D.C., and if the Federal Communications Commission has its way, your business could be impacted in a negative way.

On November 21, the FCC unveiled a plan to repeal Obama-era open internet regulations, also known as “Net Neutrality”. A quick browse of NAR’s advocacy page will bring you to their explanation of net neutrality:

“Net neutrality is shorthand for the concept that Internet users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the Internet. More specifically, net neutrality requires that broadband networks be free of restrictions on content, sites, or platforms. Networks should not restrict the equipment that may be attached to them, nor the modes of communication allowed on them. Finally, networks should ensure that communication is not unreasonably degraded by other communication streams.”

In addition, NAR has been active in protecting internet competiveness on behalf of its members. In a comment to the FCC in July former NAR President Bill Brown stated that “eliminating the Open Internet regulations essentially means ISPs can continue charging consumers for access to the internet while simultaneously charging institutions for prioritized access to those customers. This means information provided by any organization without deep enough pockets to pay the additional fee will load much slower than those with paid prioritization agreements.”

In short, this means that if net neutrality is repealed, broadband providers will be able to decide on who the winners and losers are on the internet.

In an effort to bolster their stance in defending net neutrality, NAR has partnered with the likes of Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook to oppose the repeal.

So how does this all affect you professionally? The real estate landscape is rapidly changing in regards to how REALTORS® engage and serve their clients. From apps, drone photography, and virtual reality, the internet has increased the effectiveness of a REALTOR® to a seller and the importance of a REALTOR® to a buyer.

However, should the proposed repeal be voted on and approved, REALTORS® can expect to see a slowdown in innovation as small tech startups will potentially be choked off as providers force innovators to pay a premium for “Fast Lanes” – a term used to describe increased access to bandwidth. Do you want your virtual tours to stream to customers quickly and in full HD quality? If you’re not in the “fast lane”, you may get left behind.

Additionally, consumers may be stuck with paying higher fees for services and products they currently enjoy. For example, you may have noticed that Netflix increased their fees recently. Under the new rules, Netflix may have to pay a lot more for “fast lanes”, and it will be consumers who ultimately absorb those costs.

There are many reasons you should be concerned about the rules that are being proposed. By repealing open internet policies that are in place, Big Telecom wins, and innovators – and thus consumers – lose.

To be clear, repealing net neutrality  won’t be the unleashing of the free market, but rather would be establishing that crony capitalism rules the day, once again.