Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Significance of Net Neutrality

In case you weren't watching the news last week, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) voted 3-2 in favor of adopting the regulations dubbed "Net Neutrality".  Since this is not and never will be a political blog, I won't discuss the relative merits, pro or con, of the decision.  Rather, I'm going to take a little time to cover the significance of the action.

Take a moment and think about two things: your business and your personal life.

First let's cover the work aspect of the Internet.  Imagine going into your "office", whatever that happens to be.  Now, envision all of the work that you and your colleagues will do during the day.  In 2015, it is very difficult to imagine anyone (in the first world) being able to do any work without the use of some kind of technological device, which can only function with an Internet connection.  Note that a "wired" device is one that has Internet connectivity.  I've thought long and hard about what type of work could occur without some type of connected device.  (I dare any of you readers to come up with a job that could be properly executed without any connected technologies involved.)  Be forewarned: Some of you may say that something like farming is a basic type of job that needs no technology, let alone the Internet.  Wrong!  Today I have a close friend who manages a farm.  In order to increase the efficiency of working fields, his company actually uses GPS-guided tractors, which essentially drive themselves!  This capability isn't just a nice-to-have.  It forms a foundational competitive advantage that allows the farm to be more profitable than its competition.

From the perspective of business, it is very difficult to find any industry that is not absolutely dependent upon the Internet.  This is true for both internal operations (non-customer facing) and external B2B and B2C transactions.

Now let's examine what happens in your personal life.  First off, imagine your home, apartment, dorm room, shack, or whatever.  Odds are almost certain that both you and anyone else in the domicile over the age of four rely on Internet connected devices.  Yes, each of you may use them in different ways but that fact is that you are all still online.  And this time, I'm not limiting the scope of the discussion to just the first world.  I've been in many third world countries and it is very common to find people living in shacks with dirt floors, yet everyone has a smartphone.  In fact, in China there are more mobile phones in use than there are people in the entire western hemisphere.  Think about that for a moment.

Now imagine your relationships with friends, family, partners, and associates.  How many of you find yourselves out at restaurants, sporting events, or other activities where the scene looks like this one:

If you take scenes like the one above and mix in all of the trends from pop-culture, it wouldn't be outrageous to imagine a day coming soon where we are all wired to the 'Net directly from our brains.

So how does this all relate back to Net Neutrality?  As with most things that come natural to the human species, it comes down to power.  Not electricity, but the ability to control people and the direction of society.  Governments, businesses, and individuals are finally coming to grasp the reality that humans are moving towards a virtual society.  This society would include business, dating, travel, entertainment, and many other things that you can guess.  (For a great fictional take on this concept, read the book, "Ready Player One")  There is a burgeoning struggle within the United States and the world in general for control of the Internet.  This means control of access, content, speed, custom, and finally thought.

The actions taken by the FCC are neither good, nor evil - just a sign of things to come.  Expect to see entities both public and private engaging in a titanic struggle for ultimate control of the Internet.  Whomever or whoever wins the fight will earn the ability to forge the future direction of the planet.