Before you think I am Uber drunk, let me explain.
There has been a lot of noise over the new Net Neutrality law and what it means to us as consumers, small/medium businesses, and large enterprises. In this new chronicle, I intend to shed some light on this topic using an analogy that we all understand: our Uber rides. Love it or hate it you can’t ignore it.
Today, Uber is a means to an end.
A bachelor party, a trip to the mall, an airport dash, dropping off your car at the mechanic – Uber is filling a mobility need – that’s it. They do it quickly and efficiently and you get to your “desired” destination and everyone’s happy (not exactly with the 5-minute tracking expose after your ride ends, the hacking of our personal data or their predatory work environment – but that’s a topic of discussion for another day!).
Now imagine that you indicate your desire to head to the ‘Amazon bookstore’ (yes, there are a few of those springing up), and Uber offers to take you to the ‘Uber bookstore’ claiming it has more titles and offers a 10% discount as well! What would you do?
Headstrong as you are - you insist that you really want to go to the Amazon bookstore only, the fare is jacked up by 10% - take it or leave it!
And if you still don’t flinch, it gets even better. After your ride starts you are informed that your UberX is turning into an UberPool with multiple pit-stops and eventually you get to the Amazon store after a frustratingly long-ish drive through the inner-city ramparts.
You get the picture: optimized and cost-effective ride to the Uber property OR an expensive or long-winded way to your preferred destination.
That, my friends, represents the new Net Neutrality law. Ok – it’s just an analogy! If your head is spinning, let me draw the parallels.
Replace Uber with AT&T, and the Amazon bookstore with Amazon.com. Got it? No? Let me explain.
AT&T is Uber – it takes you (through your web browser and your Android apps) to whatever destination you want to get to – Pandora, Netflix, Facebook, Quora …. If all is functioning well, you don’t even know AT&T is the carrier underneath. That changes now with the Net Neutrality law. Now, AT&T has the power to decide how and where to take you (much like the Uber example).
You want to go to Netflix – how about the AT&T online movie store instead? No? Then wait 2 minutes before we take you there. And you might get frustrated and say "OK" to the AT&T movie store. Game. Set. Match.
But with large properties like Netflix (or Facebook, Google, Amazon etc.) – they have the deep pockets to strike deals with AT&T (and Verizon, Comcast etc.) so they get preferred treatment and we, as consumers, are still able to get to those large digital playgrounds. [NOTE: It’s a different story if the actual cost of these deals ends up in yet another undecipherable Net Neutrality surcharge in your DirecTV bill!]
With this in mind, what businesses do you think are going to get most impacted?
Yes. It’s the small-medium business. These businesses that are dependent on us, the consumers, for their survivability and have no ability to pay these carriers for preferred treatment. These are small merchants that have an online store, a gig service, an app to monitor your home security; you need to access them quickly and reliably over the Internet. Except you cannot.
Now, AT&T (or any of the other carriers) get to play Internet God.
In the Uber analogy, this would say Clare Coffee and Donuts that you want to head to for your cappuccino, but because they are not paying an Uber ‘fee’, Uber will never put them as a preferred vendor and if you (or me as the consumer) do not pay a surcharge ourselves we will be subject to the scenic route misery. And, pretty soon, we lose it and we head to Uber Coffee (or Starbucks) and Clare Coffee and Donuts closes shop.
That, my friends, is the travesty with this new law.
Next time we will delve into, what some innovative startups are doing to give us some hope. Until then, don’t let Uber dictate where you want to go – get your cappuccino at Clare Coffee and Donuts.