What is Net Neutrality ?
Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites. So what does the end of Net Neutrality mean, and how does it affect Australians? The first sentence on the Wikipedia entry states :
Net neutrality is the principle that governments should mandate Internet service providers to treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication
Europe and the US have specific laws forcing providers to comply with the principle. There is a recent case, making the news where the US laws have been overturned.
Even though the laws apply to the USA only, a number of ISP’s that are used by companies world-wide operate from the USA.
There is a group that has appealed the overturning of the Net Neutrality laws, so for the time being nothing much will change unless they lose their appeal (we hope they don’t lose).
This currently provides a level playing field for startups and small companies against much bigger incumbents, and allows tiny e-commerce startups to function and operate in an environment that may otherwise be more challenging.
How does this affect your company, website, app or ecommerce store?
If your website is hosted on US based servers, whether that’s via a US company or a local company with US hosting arrangements, then you will be affected by the changes that are going to mean the end of Net Neutrality in the new act, even though your company may not be a US entity.
How does this work ?
All US based hosting providers with servers in the US purchase their bandwidth from the major ISP’s – such as AT&T, Verizon, Google fiber , etc .
Once Net Neutrality is fully revoked, these major providers will no longer be required by law to provide that even playing field we mentioned at he start of this article .
This means they can tier the access to bandwidth and the speed of the connection at different price points.
In blunt terms, this means your website could get slower, or even be blocked entirely unless you pay more to have the same current access and speed that you have now, if you host with a US based company on servers located within the USA.
Whether this happens to you or not depends heavily on what your hosting provider has negotiated and is prepared to pay for, or subsidise.
What can you do about it.
Host locally wherever possible. Find a provider with servers in Australian or your local jurisdiction, or as close as you can get to the majority of your clients.
What about AWS, Google and Microsoft – which are US companies with local servers. Are you affected if you host on Sydney or other local servers with these companies ?
You are protected by local Australian laws, although not specific to Net Neutrality, the ACCC claims to be confident that our current laws are enough to protect consumers. If your website is hosted on a local server – even if that server is maintained or provided by one of the big Cloud providers mentioned you should be safe.
What if you’re an Aussie company with International presence and US clients – how does this affect you ?
Your Australian clients will have the best experience of your web presence if you are hosting locally – however – you might have to replicate your website on several US based servers across different providers, in order to provide the best experience possible to your US clients. This may come at significant extra cost, and at different price points depending on the providers and the ISP’s they work with. Several companies offer this as a service , including AWS, Google and Azure ( Microsoft).
Your checklist / conclusions
- Try to go local ( relative to your clients) – find a local reliable hosting provider — it might cost more, but you won’t be affected by Net Neutrality.
- If you’re a local company with International Presence – start investigating options now to replace or host mirror sites.
- If you are hosting with a local reseller ( ie someone who resells hosting on behalf of a larger provider) – check where exactly your site is hosted geographically.