You’re standing in a store holding a product you’ve been searching for, but you want to know if you can get it cheaper somewhere else. You take out your smart phone, open up the Google app and run a search for the same product. Up comes a handful of results, showing you exactly where else you can buy the product and how much it will cost. Turns out the store you’re at has the best price. Phone goes back in your pocket and you head to the check-out.
Net Neutrality Defined
Your ability to search the web and see results from every website (assuming they have good SEO in place) is an example of Net Neutrality – the equal access of information on the Internet. Since the introduction of the World Wide Web to companies and consumers in the late 1990s, the online information marketplace has been a rapidly expanding pool of free data. Marketers have learned how to harness this technology into a communications tool that leverages the ability to open two-way dialogue between company and consumer.
As an Inbound Marketer, you’re aware of the need for quality content and top-notch products and services. There’s no doubt you’ve been reigning in the power and equality of the Internet to create a website, blog, social media account and more. You may have paid for someone to help you set up those online platforms and perhaps you have an ad budget, too. But you know that if you’ve done a good job providing relevant content to your target audience and optimized your SEO that you’ve got just as good of a chance of showing up in a search as any other company regardless of size and bottom line.
Life before Net Neutrality
That degree of access hasn’t always been the case. Prior to the innovation of the Internet, marketers lived in a dark time called the Broadcast era where money equaled audience. Only the advertising power houses could afford prime slots on television and radio and the glorified full-page print ad.
Start-ups relied on grassroots efforts to get going and often crashed and burned because they simply couldn’t afford to get the word out. This set-up resulted in two things: the media’s gateway power and a hostile environment for innovation. In the media-controlled world, the best contract got the prime audience and the consumer was forced to swallow content that was served to them. Political charges and business agreements could polarize opinions and public awareness, keeping a tight grip on who knew what when. The lack of innovation came from the inability to spread the word about new goods and services. People simply couldn’t share their ideas if they didn’t have enough capital.
Ghosts of this era still live in traditional media outlets, including Super Bowl commercials that continue to climb in cost year after year. Thankfully, the Internet has drastically changed the landscape for idea generation and given the Inbound Marketer a blank canvas to paint to the consumers’ choosing. But recent developments in the web world has Net Neutrality on the list of possibly endangered species.
The Future of Net Neutrality and Inbound Marketers
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently passed regulations that open the debate for altering Net Neutrality as we know it currently. The majority of the commission and political groups are in agreement that Net Neutrality is a good thing. The debate lies with how to define the term.
Major communication companies would like to see it laid out in a way that allows them to give faster broadband connection to their sister companies, creating an autobahn for users to arrive at their content. It’s important to note that this decision would not slow down access to the rest of the Internet, but the risk of discriminating against start-ups and lesser-known innovative content is still prevalent.
The Net Neutrality debate will not be a quick decision. For the time being, Inbound Marketers can keep on cranking out amazing content to receive stellar results. You can also get involved by submitting your comments to the FCC before July 15. We’d love to hear what you think about the future of Net Neutrality in the comments below.