Thursday, December 14, 2017

How Repealing Net Neutrality Affects Your Business

Strategy / Technology / Cloud

It’s hard to write about this subject and be unbiased. I work for a CX agency; digital is a huge part of that. But more directly, I am a consumer—a consumer who consumes a huge amount of consumables, digitally.

In short, I like Net Neutrality. I like it for me and for others. I like it for rich, I like it for poor. I like it for communities, nations, governments, and enterprise. Yet, as we’ve witnessed today, the value placed on Net Neutrality is not shared – represented by the FCC’s vote to dismantle it. This is a radical departure that risks erosion of the biggest free speech platform the world has ever known.

However, stepping away from the emotionally and politically charged portions of Net Neutrality, we can begin to think through what we need to do as businesses to make engaging with us easier. This is quite literally a core component to customer experience: understanding when, where and how the customer is engaging with us.

For many brands, their customers are now limited by their choice to pay for premium speeds and connectivity that ISP’s are now able to control without ‘Utility like’ regulations.

Certainly, most major businesses will pay for the enhanced speeds. Napkin math will tell most COO’s that paying for higher speeds will offset the investment with acceptable impact to margins and profitability. However, companies who don’t regulate where their employees go may choose to start to do so, in order to protect bandwidth and investment.

More than likely though, it is the individual consumer who will now be impacted the most. Following them to the brands they do business with, it is a quick conclusion that the benefit of a well-performing network (the US ranked 47 for mobile and 11 for broadband according to Speedtest this year) that brands have used to deliver their content and products will now change.

What’s more is that ISP’s now have the ability to choose where and how they structure their pricing. So in theory, TimeWarner may choose to add a premium to say, Bel Air, CA (a ritzy neighborhood) when they access Gucci, Brietling or Porche, knowing the impact will be negligible and blow back negligible if even noticed.

That may hardly seem like an inconvenience or ‘tax’ worth fighting against, but consider the ability for ISP’s to segment poor, racially divided or politically focused communities and make access or cost decisions with those variables (enter political division – I’m not going there).

Appropriateness and morality aside, this legal capability is here and the question is now what can organizations do in order to assure their content is delivered in a way so that when a subpar internet speed is being utilized, the customers experience remains positive.

The good news is: it’s not hard and we know what to do. Best practices in the digital community account for slow speeds, lack of access and aged devices.

The bad news is: it’s work and many organizations ignored best practices in early iterations of digital assets, leaning on infrastructure to overcome short cuts made early on.

Here are some questions you can ask your digital teams to get a sense of how you are positioned. You should get a sense pretty quickly of what you need to do in order to optimize for performance. Keep in mind, doing these things are useful no matter what the policies of net neutrality are.

  • How heavily does the application depend on graphics to render the experience versus light weight designs managed
  • How many external calls does your system make to other systems that you don’t own (ex. Google Analytics, public domain js files etc.)
  • Was the system tested across multiple connection speeds? How did it do?
  • How does the management system for the application itself (i.e. CMS or intranet) fare at lower speeds?
  • Are modern development approaches like lazy loading being employed?
  • Do you have messaging in place to warn/inform low bandwidth users of a subpar experience?
  • Do your cascading style sheets take speed degradation into account and shift to lighter weight CSS?
  • Are your servers optimized for quick response times?
  • How extensively are you using caching, DAM systems or edge asset delivery models?
  • How well-defined are your click paths to minimize number of pages needed to convert/transact?
  • Have you enabled Gzip compression?
  • Are your high traffic pages optimized for AMP protocols?

Oh – and think this is just a consumer problem? Think again. 

Most companies have intranets and internal tools that people can access from home, or the road. Those connections are not Enterprise owned or paid for (yet). The user is at the mercy of their home connection or a third-party they are using (I am using United and GOGO as I write this).

If the individual or the provider chooses not to pay for a faster service, productivity could slow, throughput may begin feeling off.  In short, the business will pay one way or another.

There will be a ton of unintended results from the repeal of Net Neutrality. Given today’s vote, now is the time to consider what you are willing to do for your employees and your customers alike.

Want to explore more about how the repeal of Net Neutrality might affect your business? Give us a ring.

Jason Fields is the SVP & Managing Director, Los Angeles, at Rightpoint. Follow Jason on Twitter and LinkedIn.