The Death of Net Neutrality, or: How to Survive the Internet Slow Lane

Slow Lane SEO

Josh Patrice Jul 18 2014

So it’s come to this.

Our last stand against a tyrannical regime. Our last chance for our voices to be heard before the FCC screws it all up.

Yes, the FCC is at it again, and this time, it could cost all us site owners a lot of money.

First, a primer

Up to now, we’ve all lived in the happy world of Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality holds that the Internet should be a neutral channel of digital data where no single individual or business (same thing, thanks Supreme Court!) has an (dis)advantage. Right now, that’s not just theory. It’s how the internet is: My blog, Portent’s site, the NHL, and Walmart all enjoy the same digital pipeline with regard to cost and performance. Providers can’t mess with the series of tubes, as all sites are equal. It’s just like Thomas Jefferson wanted.

But, it’s probably going to change, and soon. The FCC has a proposal that would allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to create two levels of service for their clients: A faster tier, cleverly nicknamed the ‘internet fast lane’, and a slower tier (no clever nicknames yet). Opponents of this proposal say it’s the beginning of the end of Net Neutrality, as we’ll launch a ‘two class’ Internet access system.

So, why don’t you want the fast lane option?

A faster internet sounds great, until you realize a couple of things: For one, the fast lane could be the same speed we all have now, and the slow lane could be even slower than what you experience today. ISPs, after all, aren’t just sitting on 30GB bandwidth. Second, the fast lane will cost web site owners and other ‘downstream’ content providers. They’ll pass that cost along. Web site owners — that’s us — will see higher hosting costs. We lose.

So, the fast lane is awful for web site owners.

That’s the primer.

Now, here’s what you, the web site owner, can do about it:

Page Load Time

Assuming the FCC gets their way (which they will, because American politics) and the Fast Lane becomes a reality. You’re probably not Netflix or Oracle. Maybe you don’t even use Netflix (though really? Have you not seen House of Cards?). You don’t have the need for the “fast lane” nor the money to buy into it. This means your site is going to be noticeably slower when accessed by your users… but it doesn’t have to be. Tomorrow’s two-tiered Internet places an even higher importance on page load time. Having the fastest site money can’t buy will be your only chance to compete with the likes of big box retailers, giant corporations, or the wealthy entrepreneur. So let’s get your site running as fast as possible!

Go to http://www.webpagetest.org/ right now, and run a test on your site. You’ll be able to run a lot of different tests via the tool, like this waterfall report. It shows when each element of your page loads, and how much time each takes:

Page Speed Waterfall

and this filmstrip view of your site loading, for better visualization of how slow things may be moving:

Page Load Time Filmstrip

Similar to Google PageSpeed and YSlow, you’ll receive scores for your site so you know where to focus your efforts.

Page Load Time Scoresheet

In fact, you can even view PageSpeed recommendations from your report. Focus on the red and yellow ones to make the biggest impact.

PageSpeed Recommendations

Get it Up to Speed!

So, now that you know where your site is lacking, it’s time to fix it. I would walk you through this, but we’ve written so many posts about page load time over the years, that I’d be beating a not quite dead horse. Instead, please read:

Improving Site Speed by Nick Bernard
31 Ways to Speed Up Your Site by Ian Lurie
How We Made Portent.com Really Freakin’ Fast by Ian Lurie

As you can see, we’ve been on this bandwagon for years now. We’ve also seen quite a few success stories for our clients along the way. That being said, for a lot of folks, it’s easy to put off site speed changes because you assume that your users want whatever it is you’re offering.

That’s not really the case. So, if you need help convincing your dev team, your boss, or whomever to let you make changes, please read:

Site Speed is Hurting Everyone’s Revenue

Do it Today

Not only is your site’s future at stake if the FCC has its way, but its present is at stake as well. Site speed is crucial to online success. It impacts the user experience, conversion rate, sales and revenue, and even rankings.

Get a fast site today, and make money tomorrow.

Blatant promotion: If you aren’t sure how to get into the fast lane, or you break out in a cold sweat thinking about it, check out our site accelerator service. It’s pretty great.