Amazon, Reddit, Netflix, Google: This is just the beginning of the list of prominent companies that have joined the chorus to call for the preservation of net neutrality on July 12, 2017, the "Day of Action." They stand to lose something under Federal Communication Commission Chairman Ajit Pai's plan to roll back Title II net neutrality rules, which could allow internet service providers to give preferential treatment to certain content providers and customers.
But your brand may not seem to be as directly affected if it is not a content provider. How, then, is this controversy relevant to you?
1. Your audience could be decimated.
Right now, we are in an age where brands have astonishing reach and overwhelmingly powerful information about their audience. Since so many people use Google and social media sites, it feels like you practically have the whole of humanity before you, diced up into convenient demographics and ready to see your promoted content. But in an unregulated internet, users may have to pay extra to access certain sites (see graphic above for an imagined price structure an ISP could offer). Customers may then decide to forego using popular platforms or migrate to others that are easier to use for free, thus both cutting down and fragmenting your audience and giving you less of an idea whom you're reaching and whom you're not.
2. Your site could be kneecapped.
If net neutrality protections are not preserved, there's no telling how ISPs could meddle with your livelihood. Say your brand provides a service and an ISP owns a company that provides a competing service; they could simply block yours entirely in order to give theirs preference. And even if you're not a major player, there's no guarantee you'd fly under the radar; ISPs could set up a pricing structure wherein you have to pay them more for your site users to have faster loading times—and if you don't pay, you'll be in the position of explaining to your customers why they should use your site when they could go elsewhere and have a better experience.
3. It could adversely affect the other businesses you partner with.
No brand is an island entire of itself. Do you work with any analytics and media monitoring services? Content management systems? Email marketing software? Even if your brand per se is unaffected, your list of vulnerable partners is long, and the uncertainty and upheaval that a rollback of net neutrality protections could entail has many different inroads toward affecting you.
Follow Ian on Twitter: @ianwright0101