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A LACK OF NET NEUTRALITY WILL HURT SMALL BUSINESSES AND SITES THE MOST

By Miklos Orban

 

Call me a history geek, but I love the Modern Mechanix blog. It is about how people foresaw the future in different ages, and funny to see how “the future” turned out at the end. But this blog also reminded me of the net neutrality debate. While we all know the positions of Amazon, Facebook or Google on this issue, the voices of small businesses, average websites Modern Mechanix or the everyday Internet user like me have not been heard in this long debate.

 

It is not the likes of Google or Facebook that will suffer where net neutrality is not respected. Companies like these operate with such a presence globally that it is certain they will not be forgotten by any internet service providers anywhere in the world. For instance, recently Facebook struck a deal with service provider Globe, operating in the Philippines, resulting in an offer that allowed access only to Facebook’s content. This demonstrates the influence that this kind of multinational business can leverage. And similarly in Hungary, Magyar Telekom just introduced a few commercial offers which limit access to the biggest websites.

 

If service providers are empowered to decide on the accessibility of content, small companies, local websites or niche blogs will easily be left out these commercial discussions, as they are virtually unknown to most of the ISPs. No survey is required to establish the likelihood of this happening, recent examples have already proved this in many countries, including in Central and Eastern Europe. Moreover, it is also likely that if ISPs are able to, they will demand payment for how content is displayed. Obviously, SMEs like PROKOP in the Czech Republic or small sites like Modern Mechanix will be unable to contend with the likes of Amazon and so access to their content is likely to be slowed or even blocked altogether.

 

Without net neutrality, service providers could also decide to impose significantly higher fees on consumers who wish to access all web content and restrict the lowest paying customers to only what the ISPs choose to offer. This means that fewer and fewer consumers will have access to small websites and e-shops and consequently, these small players will disappear. If net neutrality is not maintained, the landscape of the internet is likely to change drastically to an environment in which only large corporations can survive and small businesses and local players will die. This would hurt Central and Eastern Europe badly. And believe me, the world would be a less interesting place without the Modern Mechanix blog.

Miklos Orban is the chairman of Explico, a regulatory consultancy boutique providing services beyond traditional legal advice.

 

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