The end of net neutrality took the internet and the global media by storm, gobbling up countless headlines for days and, to some commentators, evidently spelling out the end of the internet as we know it. While some of those panicking about the end of net neutrality may have overblown the consequences of the FCC’s action to repeal it, it’s a matter of fact that we’re now living in a new era of the internet, and accountants need to be prepared.
So, what exactly does the end of net neutrality mean for accountants, and what are the bare essentials you need to know to remain competitive and competent when it comes to satisfying your client’s demands? Read up on the facts behind net neutrality, and you’ll be well prepared for an uncertain digital future.
The FCC’s firestorm
When the Federal Communications Commission repealed net neutrality, it ignited a media maelstrom that seemed to signify the end of days. While the vote had massive implications for a myriad of industries, and indeed made some fundamental changes to the internet as we know it, accountants should understand that the end of net neutrality doesn’t mean the end of the internet, but rather the opening of a new chapter in its history. Ignore the hype, and instead focus on the fundamentals, and you’ll be much more well-versed when it comes to explaining the end of net neutrality to inquisitive clients or company superiors.
If you’re completely unfamiliar with what net neutrality was, you shouldn’t feel ashamed; before the FCC’s historic vote, the vast majority of the public and even most professionals had little idea of what net neutrality was, but they’ll certainly miss it while it’s gone. For the most part, the repeal of net neutrality serves to massively benefit internet service providers who can now theoretically charge significantly higher premiums to offer certain internet users access to “fast lanes,” which may perform better and more reliably than others.
Essentially, net neutrality meant that internet service providers who hook us all up to our desperately-needed internet each day had to treat all data the same, regardless of which content provider or customer was paying for it. Nobody anywhere could pay more for better access, SEO companies such as YEAH! Local – though with net neutrality’s repeal that’s now a possible thing of the past. Now that net neutrality’s gone, accountants who deal with small business owners in particular may need to explain the ramification of its loss, particularly when it comes to noting the huge advantage big companies now have over small ones when it comes to funneling data to consumers.
The extent to which accountants need to familiarize themselves with how disastrous the repealing of net neutrality stands to be for small businesses cannot be overemphasized; if you haven’t already started reading up on how the FCC’s move will make small businesses suffer, you need to hit the books, or you’ll be letting your smaller clients down. Accountants should also let their clients know that we’re not out of the woods yet when it comes to net neutrality, either; the fight is likely to rage on for years within the halls of congress, where ISPs are trying to punt the issue, and will remain pertinent to accounting for some time.
The pre and post net neutrality world
To truly understand the post-net neutrality internet, you should have a basic understanding of what the web was like before net neutrality. While you may assume that net neutrality was the long-held standard, which is why there was such an uproar when the FCC threatened to repeal it, the matter of fact is that net neutrality is relatively new; net neutrality rules only really came into effect in 2015, when then-President Obama instituted ISP regulatory reform.
Checking out a brief, easy-to-read timeline of net neutrality and the general regulation of internet content can be invaluable to any accountant when it comes to explaining the long historical process of this kind of regulation to clients. This seemingly minor bureaucratic change has far-ranging implications, and only by having a comprehensive understanding of how the internet has been regulated in recent years can you adequately explain to a luddite client the importance of net neutrality’s repeal. Like everyone else, accountants shouldn’t throw their hands in the air and panic thanks to the fact that net neutrality is no longer with us; moping and screaming, after all, does nothing. Rather, CPAs should start educating themselves on the impact net neutrality’s repeal will have on the ability of small businesses to remain competitive, as accountants are often the one thing standing between a mom-and-pop-shop and bankruptcy. You can’t afford to let your clients down; keep reading up on net neutrality, and understand that it will remain a hot-topic issue for some time, and you’ll be an in-demand accountant who appears up to date on the latest trends.