Australia’s robust consumer protection policies have largely enabled the country to surf the web and engage in business online without much concern over their connections. However, recent legislative changes in the United States are eliminating net neutrality, and the impact of this is reverberating across the globe.
Net Neutrality Ensures Equal Access to Websites
Previously, the U.S. had net neutrality laws which forced internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all data and consumers the same. However, in 2017, these regulations were repealed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Courts recently upheld this decision, but agreed to allow individual states to craft their own net neutrality regulations.
Lost Net Neutrality Could Cause Major Issues for American Consumers and Businesses
Lost net neutrality presents numerous challenges for Americans. Their ISPs can now throttle their connections, block access to certain websites, or charge customers more if they want to access specific sites, creating the potential for soaring costs as well as reduced access. Given that countless partnerships exist between large corporations, the change gives ISPs the ability to crowd out competitors too. For example, Disney and Comcast, an ISP, are responsible for Hulu. In theory, Comcast could give its customers preferential treatment while accessing Hulu, but charge additional fees, slow connections, or wholly block access to competing services such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
The Changes are a Blow to Businesses Around the Globe
That said, Americans won’t be the only ones impacted by the legislative changes, as literally every business on earth that has digital ties to the United States may be affected.
Reduced Traffic: Websites that attract U.S. visitors may see traffic dwindle due to the poor user experience caused by sluggish loads and blocks. Any site may struggle to maintain rank in search engines because slow load times may be interpreted by algorithms as technical errors.
Increased Costs: There’s some possibility ISPs may begin charging organizations for the privilege of having their content accessible to their customers. Start-ups and small businesses that cannot afford the additional costs will be left in the cold.
International Copycats: Companies with an eye on the States may well attempt to follow suit. Recently, NBN Co., which provides the broadband network for companies like Vodafone, Optus, and Telstra, asked its customers if they’d support a measure that raised prices for customers who want to stream videos.
4 Ways Brands are Overcoming Throttled Connections from Lost Net Neutrality
While there’s little that can be done if ISPs block sites or price businesses out of the market, business are already taking steps to ensure load speeds don’t stall business.
1. Minimizing Images and Eliminating Unnecessary Images
Images tend to load slowly, and the larger the file size, the longer it takes. This can spell out trouble for all sites, but may hit online retailers and other image-heavy websites even harder if connections are throttled. Some brands are pre-emptively going through and shrinking their images or reducing the quality to improve load times. They’re also replacing images with text whenever possible.
2. Cleaning Up Codes
When the back end of a website gets messy, a browser may have to find instructions for how to display elements in various places and can get conflicting instructions. This tends to happen more often when a site is leveraging lots of plugins, was built in a modular way, has been in service for years with lots of developers working on it, and sometimes even when the site is poorly coded from the start. Some savvy business owners are getting their codes cleaned up now or having fresh sites rebuilt to ensure speedy loads.
3. Making User Interfaces Simpler
When people have to work hard to find the information they’ve come to a site for, they tend to leave it quickly. Very few will stick around and click through the site to read. However, even the ones who would have stuck around before will leave if they know they’re going to be waiting longer for each click to take them to their intended content. To address this, companies are re-evaluating their menus and layouts to ensure visitors can find what they want quickly.
4. Choosing Alternate Modes of Advertising and Monetization
Banner ads are still one of the most popular ways to attract visitors to sites and monetize websites, but throttled speeds impact both due to slow image and page loads. Many brands are experimenting with options that don’t rely on banner ads. For advertisers, social media marketing, influencer marketing, email marketing, and sponsorship are trending. In terms of monetization, options like sponsored content and memberships are being explored.
Making Changes May Not Be Necessary, But is Still Advantageous
As of right now, the biggest ISPs have gone on the record saying they don’t intend to make any changes, so companies can take a wait-and-see approach. However, many of the steps brands are taking to prepare for throttled connections are considered digital marketing best practices and can lead to improved user experiences. This in mind, there’s benefit to addressing sluggish sites now, even if ISPs continue to treat all sites and customers equally.