As you may have heard, the FCC recently announced a vote in December to gut their net neutrality regulations and essentially let telecoms do whatever they want with the internet. For those not aware, these rules were put in place in the ancient days of 2015 because it was becoming clear that the lack of competition in the space was driving improper behaviors.
At its core, net neutrality ensures that telecom providers (Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Spectrum, etc) must treat all data on their network the same way. It doesn’t say they have to price access to their networks at a certain rate or force them to make upgrades. It simply makes the principle clear that data is data.
It seems obvious on the surface, why would anyone treat some data differently than other data? A great example is that AT&T now owns DirecTV. Without net neutrality rules in place, AT&T could put in place pricing that streaming DirecTV over their network is free (as long as you pay for the package) but streaming any other television related data costs an additional $100 per month. Essentially they are using their market position to arbitrarily limit competition from other TV providers.
Net neutrality ensures a level playing field for large and small companies. Under the current rules, Google and Facebook cannot go to Comcast and pay for faster connections to their services. Without net neutrality, Google could pay Comcast (or others) for the privilege of making YouTube a preferred service that streams for free at 4k while all other video services only get low-quality streams. Suddenly start-ups in the video space are forced out of business because their customer base is disincentivized from using anyone but Youtube.
Removing net neutrality rules simply gives big telecom providers new, artificial ways of making money off the backs of their customers without adding any value back.
So why is this important to CRE? Because our technology sectors are just beginning to take off with none of them really big yet. CRE Tech is truly a start-up environment and without net neutrality, all start-ups will immediately be at a disadvantage. Groundbreaking CRE Tech is not going to be low bandwidth, it’s going to involve AR, VR and high-quality video. It’s going to require large amounts of data. It’s going to grow like crazy over the next decade.
With net neutrality in place, there are no barriers to this growth and all companies will get to compete on their merits. Take net neutrality off the table and suddenly it’s not necessarily about who has the best product, it’s about who has the best relationship with Comcast and Verizon.
Personally, I want the market to decide winners and losers. Comcast can’t be trusted to do right by customers of their own services, why let them decide the future of CRE Technology?
What can you do? Contact your representatives to tell them to protect the current rules either through direct legislation or through applying pressure to the FCC. The current rules are not perfect and could use some improvement but getting rid of them is not the answer.