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The FCC's Take on Net Neutrality May Impact PR
By: Mike Bush
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Let’s start with the obvious here: The Chairman of the FCC just opened an immense can of “Who’s Your Daddy?” on every Internet service provider in the US. The three “Bright Lines” rules of the Chairman’s, discussed expertly on GigaOm, are:
  • No Blocking
  • No Throttling
  • No Paid Prioritization
In practical terms, it means companies like Comcast or Verizon have to treat ESPN.com and Yahoo Sports the same (ESPN can’t pay Comcast to be delivered more quickly), and the rules apply to both wired and wireless Internet providers.

However, there is a bit of a loophole left in the proposal that could have a profound impact on the way we as flacks use online (and social) media for our clients.

So-called “Zero Rating” plans were deemed to be acceptable. Bear with me, because this may be a little convoluted.

A “Zero Rating” approach (especially in terms of wireless carriers) means that a wireless carrier can decide that certain web pages don’t count against a customer’s data cap. Using my ESPN and Yahoo Sports example from before, this means that T-Mobile could decide that fantasy football on ESPN doesn’t count against one’s data cap, but fantasy football on Yahoo Sports does. For people who are heavy data users (and let’s be honest, we’re all inching up the scale on how much data we use), this could mean that the ISP is indirectly affecting which services we choose.

In PR Terms, if traffic on Facebook continues to be dominant because Facebook doesn’t count against data caps (but Twitter does), we could see ISPs actually impacting our social media plans. The rationale could be that “We need to be more aggressive on Facebook because all of the major carriers allow its traffic for free.”

This loophole provides a heck of an incentive for social media companies to do everything in their power to gain a “zero rating” and could stifle innovation in the social space (after all, these "zero ratings" presumably come with some sort of a cost, and start-ups may not be able to play ball).

However, I’m nitpicking.

Yesterday was a banner day for Net Neutrality and a victory for everyone who spends time online (yes, that means you, Mr. or Mrs. Reading This Blog).

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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