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3 Likely Impacts of the Repeal of Net Neutrality on Advertising

There’s been no shortage of criticism of the Federal Communication Commission’s repeal of net neutrality last week. The implications and the possible outcomes are complicated and unclear and will most certainly force consumers, marketers and agencies to adapt to the changes.

So what’s likely to happen, and what can we do about it?

  1. Nothing. The FCC assures us the Internet will continue to function as normal. While we don’t think that passes the smell test (why make the change, otherwise?), it will be from as little as months to as much as a year before internet service providers (ISPs) are likely able to make changes that could affect your user experience or your monthly bill. In this scenario, we’ll stay the course.
  2. Slower Speeds, Higher Cost. These are the two big issues users fear will result from the lack of regulation. ISPs could restrict access to content created by competitors or slow down connections to streaming services to force you into more expensive plans. If a site is suddenly throttled, marketing agencies will have to adapt the bandwidth-heavy ads that are served through these sites to prevent sites from locking up.
  3. Erosion of Market Impact. The change to net neutrality could hurt everyone from the big brands (Coke, Pepsi, Walmart) down to SBAs—and the agencies that serve them. And while those bigger brands have the deeper pockets to help them bounce back, smaller organizations and their agencies could suffer. In this case, watch for strategic partnerships between organizations to help weather the storm and, perhaps, some acquisition of agencies along the way.

The bottom line:

Conspiracy theories aside, just because the ISPs can make these changes doesn’t mean it’s good business for them to do so (and there are other, legal ways to stymie competition, after all). Although the ISPs control access, individuals and small to medium-sized businesses control most of the content. The Internet doesn’t exist without content and that gives the “small guys” (and their agencies) a leg up if this battle ever becomes a war.

Whether it does or not remains to be seen. Whatever the future holds, it’s sure to be as unpredictable as the Internet has been all these years. The key, as always, is to keep on top of the news and a step ahead. Stay tuned.

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