What Net Neutrality Rollback Means for You

December 14, 2017

Many real estate professionals and companies may now be at a disadvantage to deliver services to consumers online, as the Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to repeal net neutrality rules. The move allows internet service providers to restrict the content its consumers see and implement pay-to-play policies, giving priority to content providers who pay a fee. For small-business owners, such as real estate agents and indie brokers, that could severely cripple their ability to reach a wider audience online.

“The FCC’s rollback of the Open Internet Order will mean higher costs and slower service for millions of American consumers and businesses,” Elizabeth Mendenhall, president of the National Association of REALTORS®, said in a statement Thursday. “REALTORS®have strong concerns about what that might mean for the way consumers search for homes online and real estate is transacted.”

The FCC’s Open Internet Order, which went into effect in 2015, requires that broadband networks remain free of restrictions on content and platforms, while treating all content that flows through the network equally. That means internet service providers can’t block, throttle, or discriminate against internet traffic, such as streaming video or drone photography.

NAR challenged proposals to repeal such rules in formal comments to the FCC in July, saying a rollback of net neutrality rules could raise costs on business owners who make heavy use of technology and online platforms. In particular, NAR noted that paid-prioritization models and other anticompetitive practices would put small businesses that either can’t pay the new fee or can’t negotiate such an arrangement for themselves would face a significant competitive disadvantage, losing customers to faster websites.

The rollback will impact the majority of REALTORS®, who operate small businesses with typically no more than two principals, Mendenhall noted. She vowed that NAR will fight to have net neutrality rules reinstated. “The last thing small businesses need today is additional costs and competitive disadvantages that put them on the defensive,” Mendenhall said. “This isn’t just an issue for Silicon Valley or large telecommunications shops. This is a Main Street concern that affects businesses and consumers across the country. We intend to make our voice heard on this important issue.”

—REALTOR® Magazine