Implications of Net Neutrality Ruling for Consumers and Research

Make no mistake about it: Verizon and Comcast shares rose sharply on Tuesday with news of the FCC action to repeal Net Neutrality regulations.

Why is that? Analyst and investors expect the new rules to result in sharply higher revenue for Internet Service Providers (ISPs). That will come from raising fees to consumers — that is, you.

Now, the FCC chairman says that won’t happen. If ISPs raise prices, consumers will find their Internet elsewhere.  Where? Do you really want to watch movies on your tiny cellphone screen? And who are you paying for that privilege — Verizon?

Rural communities, which lack choices of carriers, are simply going to be screwed. You already pay more for service, and that’s going to go up, possibly by alot. (Is that karma for voting for Trump?)

It may also make a lot of content less available. Between Murdoch and the Roberts( Concast), there is already a problem of censorship in what the media report. (Those of us able to do so have turned to non-US news sources like the BBC, Toronto Star, L’Express, The Economist, etc.) for news reports. They’re often quite different and more informative than what the US media carry.

What does that mean for researchers? My primary career for over 35 years has been in market research. I’ve seen the decline in participation in surveys due to overuse and abuse:

  • Poorly designed surveys
  • Surveys used to mask political or charitable contributions, etc.

I’ve seen the switch from phone to web surveys, and the rise in survey fraud (people scamming surveys to get incentives).

The repeal of net neutrality may make things more complicated:

  • As costs rise, subscribers may have to limit the portion of the Web they access (that’s done in other countries today), making them harder to reach. Web panel maintenance may get a lot more complicated.
  • ISPs could charge survey panel companies for the right to send survey invitations to their subscribers. That will raise the cost of research for almost everyone.

There are no winners in the repeal of Net Neutrality rules except for the ISPs and their executives. The FCC isn’t acting in the interest either of the public or of most industries. Maybe Congress will.

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