By Michelle Seiler-Tucker, Special for USDR
The controversial subject of net neutrality first became a hot topic earlier this year, after a federal court ruled in favor of broadband companies, allowing them to make deals with content providers, who would pay for faster internet connections. Since then, The FCC’S been trying to come up with new internet regulations. On Thursday, the FCC presented a proposal for new rules that would dictate how broadband companies are allowed to treat cyber traffic. This critical piece of prospective regulation has drawn the attention of the world’s largest companies and a wide range of politicians.
People who are pro net neutrality want Internet service providers to treat all Internet traffic equally, and they fear that the new rules proposed by the FCC will end up allowing companies to make deals and give special treatment by providing faster internet to those who are willing to pay for it. However, the FCC’S current proposal also asks for public opinion on the idea of reclassifying the internet at a public utility, like water and electricity. President Obama is an advocate for net neutrality, but his critics hate him evermore, because if the internet is reclassified as a utility, then there would inevitably be lots of new rules placed on broadband companies, like Verizon and Comcast. This would be a HUGE change to an industry that has never had to adhere to much oversight whatsoever in the past.
Meanwhile, nothing is absolute yet. The FCC has set up an allotted time for public commentary on the proposal, and so the FCC will be listening to businesses on both sides of this industry, as well as advocates, lobbyists, brain trusts and (of course) politicians in the coming months. The FCC isn’t expected to vote on a final set of rules until later this year. While I do think there needs to be some form of new policy in regards to broadband providers and the content they stream for consumers, there are still substantial legal questions in regards to the FCC’s hybrid plan and reclassification plan. As a business broker, I work with two parties of differing interests. I take the various components of the business negotiation, assessing them in such a way as to find an equilibrium by which both the buyer and the seller are able to reach a deal I then close on. While President Obama has made it publicly clear he is an advocate for net neutrality, the FCC has been letting the situation buffer, while everyone else is spinning their wheels and weighing the costs and effects of the various ways this issue could go.
In my award winning and best-selling book, Sell Your Business For More Than It’s Worth, the process of due diligence in the sale of a business is described as a very delicate process composed of numerous factors requiring tedious attention to detail. I never rush this process, and yet I am always sure to keep my clients focused on their objective so that the process never becomes stagnant. I am concerned that the FCC will hit multiple political obstacles in this similar instance that will end up obstructing their capabilities to implement a solid and reliable new policy that is legally sound. While the FCC estimates to have a new policy voted in this year, I think this is way too soon, and that the general public should have more power in how the FCC goes about making their final decision. Ultimately, this is about the general public and I am concerned for small business owners. The two companies at war are multi-billion dollar corporations. They are very rich, and while they are always after ways to save and make more of the same money they already have a lot of, this decision will really be effecting the consumer. Lastly, this is about the future of the Internet and who holds the keys; meaning, this is about power. I think it is a bad idea to give more power to corporations who are already extremely powerful.
The reclassification and hybrid approaches proposed by the FCC raise substantive legal questions. Though the finalization of these new rules probably won’t be out until next year, they will nevertheless decide how often and on what sites you will inevitably end up using. Your preferences will be limited to sites that actually buffer and load content at an acceptable rate. Likewise, if broadband companies devise internet speed plans, then the newest addition to the hundreds of ways new businesses must overcome or else fail would be the need to have speed in the digital arena of their company.