Does a truly open internet actually exist today? 

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

I’ve now built a number of brands and businesses through digital and content marketing tactics that heavily relied on the internet: 

  • I grew a local news site to penetrate about 25 percent of the market in just a few months. 
  • I’ve helped clients around the globe share their stories and built their communities.
  • The open internet helped me grow this blog to over 400,000 visitors per year (2017 projection).
Image from the ACLU (Click to visit them)

So as you might imagine an open internet where everyone is treated somewhat similarly is important to me. 

The FCC’s proposed rules could potentially  impact that. The New York Times reports that not all traffic needs to be treated equally under them. 

Related and more: Companies stage day of protest 

What the FCC says:

Under Chairman Pai’s leadership, the FCC has proposed returning to the longstanding light-touch regulatory framework for the Internet and restoring the market-based policies necessary to preserve the future of Internet Freedom. Specifically, the FCC has proposed to:
Reinstate the “information service” classification of broadband Internet access service first established on a bipartisan basis during the Clinton Administration.

Restore the determination that mobile broadband is not a “commercial mobile service” subject to heavy-handed regulation.

Restore the authority of the nation’s most experienced cop on the privacy beat – the Federal Trade Commission – to police the privacy practices of ISPs.

That prompted  the ACLU to ask supporters to send this below to the FCC. (Disclosure: I’m a current donor to the ACLU and do agree with them on many – not all – issues.)

I strongly oppose Chairman Pai’s proposal to reverse net neutrality protections because a free and open internet is vital for our democracy, for our businesses, and for our daily lives.
Net neutrality is a vital principle in a democratic society. The biggest losers under Chairman Pai’s proposal are independent news outlets, small businesses, start-up blogs, grassroots activist groups…and everyone who uses the internet. And we won’t stay quiet while mega-corporations gain control over the information we consume every day.
Chairman Pai’s pay-to-play model would give giant internet companies the power to prioritize what we read, watch, and explore online. I won’t stand for it. It’s about my right to be heard and my right to hear others. I submit my public comment to oppose Chairman Pai’s proposal to reverse net neutrality protections.

It’s interesting to me that some of my projects actually were successful before the current rules came into place. The rules that now are being discussed to be rolled back. 

The internet in theory can level the playing field. A small-startup that has unique content and expertise can climb to the top.

Maybe that could change if the new rules come through. But realistically the internet isn’t an equal playing field anyway. 

You might be able to build it (your digital presence) and they will come, but it will take time and maybe some Google Adwords.

Not all traffic is already treated the same:

  • Google decides what it shows to people 
  • You can top that list by buying ads 
  • Facebook organic reach has plummeted, but of course you can pay ? to have your content shown to more people

So not all traffic is created or treated equal already anyway. But depending on how these new rules (if enacted) will be implemented there could be more barriers to overcome for content creators.

On the surface and based on my understanding I would hope we don’t make it harder on content creators, but let’s be realistic about the current state, too: it’s already crowded out there and just because everyone can create and publish doesn’t mean everyone will be heard. 

So far, the more relevant your content and/or the more funds you have to distribute it the more open the internet is for you.

Whatever happens, I hope we encourage and enable people to be heard!