Net Neutrality and the Construction Industry

How many ways does your construction business use the internet every day? Your firm probably has a website you use to advertise and promote your business and the work you do. You most likely use email to communicate with clients, architects, subcontractors and suppliers. Chances are you use the internet in many ways to manage your business, both in the office and out in the field.

Your company could be using a whole host of Software as a service (SaaS) and mobile applications to perform tasks such as bid management, estimating, project management and documentation, accessing plans and BIM files, employee time cards and payroll, pushing updated drawings and documents to the field for real-time collaboration.

There’s also internet-connected devices at work on construction sites like drones, the telematics and GPS systems in heavy equipment, jobsite webcams to record and monitor construction progress and wearables to monitor workers and protect them from hazards.

The internet has become such an integral part of our everyday lives that we often take for granted all the ways it is transforming the construction industry.

Another thing most of us take for granted is how current net neutrality rules allow us to use the internet without having to worry whether our internet service providers (ISPs) are going to block access to content or applications, throttle speeds to slow down traffic based on the content, applications or devices we use or allow paid prioritization for access to fast lanes for content and service providers.

That could all be changing as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to vote on December 14 to repeal the net neutrality rules put in place back in 2015. The FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order reclassified landline and mobile broadband internet from an information service under Title I of the Communications Act of 1934 to a telecommunications services under Title II. This made ISPs common carriers and subject to most of the same regulations and oversight that govern other utilities like electricity and telephone services.

If the FCC repeals the Title II net neutrality rules next week, it means ISPs could decide to block access to content or applications, throttle traffic speeds or charge companies additional fees for access to fast lanes as long as they publicly disclose those actions. Enforcement would be moved to the Federal Trade Commission to regulate anti-competitive practices but they would not be able to create their own open internet rules.

At this point, it’s uncertain whether any ISPs will do any of these things, as many have stated they are in favor of net neutrality and an open internet, but opposed to Title II.  History has shown otherwise, with ISPs blocking content and apps in favor of their own services, wanting to charge online services access fees to their network and prioritizing delivery of content for additional fees. Do you really want to have to pay ISPs additional fees for your website to be viewable to their users or subscribers?

Opponents of Title II net neutrality argue that it hinders innovation and investment into broadband networks and increases the cost of compliance which hurts smaller ISPs. They also argue that it’s more about repealing Title II classification and not about removing rules governing net neutrality, which they claim will still work without Title II to enforce them.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of net neutrality, it is important to know what the potential impact could be if the current net neutrality rules are repealed.  And, more importantly, how this decision may impact your construction business.

 

 

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