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The FCC, Changes to “Net Neutrality”, What It Means for Digital Content Publishers, and What You Can Do About It

That’s a mouthful of a title, but it’s size is outdone by the FCC’s shortsightedness in revising the rules of the internet.  If you have been following the news about “Net Neutrality”, you probably have some idea about what the FCC’s changes to the internet will mean. The most important change would allow content providers (Netflix, Google, etc.) to pay for more bandwidth from internet service providers (ISPs). Sounds great if you want to watch a movie on Netflix. But, there is only so much bandwidth to go around, which means other internet services and activities could slow down considerably. And, if the content providers are paying more to provide their service to you, what do you think that will mean for your bill? It’s pretty safe to assume that these internet behemoths will raise your rates rather than provide this upgraded service for free.

Even though no one wants to pay more for internet usage, that’s not the worst consequence of the FCC’s decision. This decision will hamper the growth of digital content publishers and other smaller companies who can’t afford the increased fees for premium bandwidth, thus having the effect of squelching innovation and reducing the competitive environment in favor of a more monopolistic model. Don’t believe it? David Talbot (MIT Technology Review) reports that venture capitalists and investors are already shying away from tech startups and other companies that rely on high-speed internet access to deliver value. Further, wireless companies are preparing to structure their bandwidth for companies willing to pay for it, so you won’t get a break with mobile devices.

Smaller companies will have a harder time delivering content with quality results. For video streaming, that could mean poor video quality, stuttering video, buffer resets, audio problems and other issues. (Even before the FCC’s changes we’ve all seen these problems!) It also means less bandwidth is available for internet uses such as web surfing, communication (Skype, chat, e-mail, etc.), and other cloud services – pretty much everything you do on the internet!

Another effect of these proposed changes is that ISPs will be able to shape the availability of internet content for its customers. Imagine not having access to certain web sites because your ISP has decided they don’t want you have access to it. The content could be restricted because of the ISP’s owners’ values, or they don’t get paid by a certain site to be sure the content is available, or they don’t want you to be able to access their competition – it could be for any reason. How might that impact our lives and the ability to provide content to customers?

Finally, there are those who suggest the lack of internet neutrality will lead to a rise in piracy. Digital piracy is at relatively low levels in the US because content is widely available and reasonably priced. For only $8 per month, you can have access to all of the content on Netflix, Hulu Plus, much of Amazon’s library or your choice of any number of streaming services. With unfettered access to such vast sources of content, there has been little need for unauthorized sharing sites or illegal distribution of content. But, if consumers’ access to quality content becomes more limited or more expensive, it is likely that digital piracy will grow.

Where does that leave your company and your ability to distribute quality content? Are you prepared to spend like the giants to ensure your customers have a quality experience? Your success is directly tied to providing the best customer experience possible. How will you compete for bandwidth to deliver your training material, movies, audio seminars, documents, presentations, software, digital subscriptions, or any other digital content? And how will you prevent your content from falling victim to piracy?

What can you do about it? Roberto Baldwin offers the following suggestions:

“Send the FCC a piece of your mind. Comment on the proposed rules. Tell them what you think about fast lanes and tiered internet access. Some prominent companies including Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter and 50 venture capitalists have already written to the FCC supporting net neutrality rules. To help you contact the FCC, the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has created Dear FCC. The site offers a form letter to send to the FCC. Take in consideration that all comments sent to the FCC are public record, so keep it clean.”

 What else can you do? (Spoiler alert – here comes the shameless plug!)

One option is distributing content on disc. The use of CD, DVD and Blu-Ray discs has been declining in favor of electronic distribution because of faster and more widespread internet access, as well as the incredible proliferation of mobile devices that don’t have disc drives. And while distribution on disc is still appropriate for certain types of content or situations, mobile devices and internet speed/access make long-term reliance on disc-based distributions impractical as your sole source to counteract the FCC’s decisions.

A better option is to change the way content is delivered electronically to users. Leveraging e-Delivery to distribute content mitigates the need for “priority” bandwidth, offers deterrents to piracy, and provides the best possible customer experience. Use it to deliver virtually any form of digital content including video, audio, documents, Ebooks, HTML presentations, Flash content, software, and more. To learn how e-Delivery can mitigate the loss of “net neutrality” for publishing your digital content, visit http://www.endeavordigital.com/e-Delivery.aspx.

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