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Turmoil Ahead: The Future of Net Neutrality, Publishing, and Digital Marketing

by Rahul Agaskar  |  
February 2, 2017

In 2017, marketers will be at the mercy of politics. Net Neutrality, a pillar of Cloud-based content, apps, and services, faces extinction under the Trump administration. If the Web becomes a pay-for-performance utility, Cloud strategies could become prohibitively expensive for small and midsize businesses. So, where might marketing dollars go instead?

Cloud-based content strategies are enticing because they enable marketers to own an audience rather than rent one. Most social networks, newspapers, and magazines are in the rental business, and therefore poor substitutes.

Thus, an end to Net Neutrality may push marketers toward open publishing platforms, which combine traits of paid, owned, and earned media. LinkedIn, Quora, Medium, podcasting, and their kin could rise meteorically on an un-neutral Web.

RIP, Net Neutrality

On February 26, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted Net Neutrality rules designed to protect free expression on the Internet. The FCC banned Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or throttling any Web-based content, applications, or services. They also ruled that broadband providers cannot create "fast lanes" for their partners or companies willing to pay up.

Although a federal appeals court upheld Net Neutrality in June 2016, it probably won't survive 2017. On December 19, 2016, Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly, two FCC commissioners, wrote a letter to ISP trade associations promising to "revisit" Net Neutrality "as soon as possible." FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Net Neutrality advocate chosen by President Obama, stepped down on January 20. The Senate did not reconfirm Wheeler's closest ally, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. The anti-Net Neutrality crowd will have a 2-1 majority on the commission and two empty spots to fill.

President Trump will likely support the dismantling of Net Neutrality. The best indication of his position is a tweet from November 2014: "Obama's attack on the Internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media." According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Trump's FCC transition team members—Jeffrey Eisenach, Roslyn Layton, and Mark Jamison—are critics of Net Neutrality, and all of them contenders for the open chairman and commissioner posts.

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Rahul Agaskar is SVP of strategy at R2integrated, a marketing agency that unites marketing cloud technology expertise with brand strategy and demand generation.

LinkedIn: Rahul Agaskar

Twitter: @rahulagaskar

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  • by Tony Madejczyk Thu Feb 2, 2017 via web

    Looking forward: How will low-information voters perceive this change? I wonder if it will be possible to "undo" the end of Net Neutrality with a new administration, or even a different set of politicians in Congress?

  • by Roslyn Layton Sat Feb 4, 2017 via web

    Dear Rahul,
    While net neutrality advocacy may support your assertions, they are not supported in the academic or empirical evidence. In general the de facto goal of net neutrality has been to enshrine the status quo of the dominance of established ad platforms and to limit market entry of competitors into advertising, particularly telecom providers. However allowing a dynamic internet, rather than imposing a neutral one, would provide a diversity ad platforms and business models, which would likely increase your potential base of clients. Read more here Before entering academia, I worked in digital marketing and analytics. Among my 2000 customers, there was never a net neutrality violation, however there were challenges related to the dominance of ad platforms. Happy to discuss more so that you can be more informed when you write on this medium.

  • by Frank Strong Thu May 25, 2017 via web

    Second paragraph down, should that be "*Content* strategies are enticing" rather than "Cloud strategies are enticing."

  • by Vahe, MarketingProfs Thu May 25, 2017 via web

    Hi, Frank. The implication is "Cloud-based content strategies," based on the preceding paragraph. We'll amend it to be more overt.

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