While net neutrality might not be high on the list of priorities for hoteliers, they should get involved in the fight to save it so their own websites aren’t hurt by the division of the internet into fast and slow lanes.
Monday is the deadline for public comment to the Federal Communications Commission about net neutrality.
You’ve probably read and heard a bit about it in the news and on various websites over the past several days, maybe even weeks. It’s a fight hoteliers should join, along with anyone else who would want to make sure access to the internet remains open and without extra costs just to do whatever it is we normally do online, such as read the news, stream digital content or simply watch cat videos on YouTube.
For those who aren’t familiar with the subject, net neutrality is the term describing how the internet exists today. People and companies pay their internet service providers for access to the internet, and they in turn make it available (normally at higher rates than desired with technicians who will arrive anytime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or whenever is most inconvenient).
That’s it. You pay for the internet and you use it to go to whatever website you want to at whatever speed you paid for. The ISPs are not allowed to censor, block or throttle the speed of websites. It’s a level playing field for websites.
The FCC, under the direction of its new chair, Ajit Pai, who from 2001 to 2003 worked as the associate general counsel for Verizon (an ISP), is looking to end net neutrality, rolling back the rules from the Obama administration that would allow for more “competition.”
This means ISPs could charge both consumers and websites to access the internet. The ISPs would be allowed to charge companies with an online presence more to make sure consumers can access them at speeds like they used to. If the companies don’t pay, that means even if consumers pay up, the consumers might have a harder time accessing the websites of the companies who didn’t make a deal with the ISPs. It’s also a possibility the ISPs could favor their own commercial interest over competitors of their subsidiaries, like if an ISP purchased a streaming service and decided to throttle access to Netflix.
So why should hoteliers care about net neutrality? Well, you all have websites. Just about every brand out there made a big push for booking direct in order to push back against online travel agency commissions. Even though revenue per available room continues to grow month after month, that’s not going to last forever, so do you really want to add an extra cost to your ISP to make sure guests can easily access your booking websites? Don’t you think the OTAs will spend the money to get into the fast lanes?
The only major companies pushing for an end to net neutrality are the ISPs because they stand to gain the most from it. The major opponents are companies such as Facebook, Netflix, Google, Amazon and the trade group Internet Association, because they rely on the internet to connect with their customers. Don’t hotels do the same thing?
As a reporter, I don’t generally like to publicly advocate for one political position or another, but this one is important for hoteliers and for consumers. Research the issue and educate yourself. There’s still some time left for public comment. Reach out to the FCC and let the commission members know your support for net neutrality because, without it, it could hurt your business.
What are your thoughts on net neutrality? Would life without it actually not be as bad as neutrality supporters think? Let me know in the comment section below. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and @HNN_Bryan.
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