The Real Deal Los Angeles writer Dennis Lynch says, "The losses could trickle down to the small real estate professionals who derive business from them."
In mid-December, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it would roll back net neutrality rules in a highly controversial decision that has most of the country up in arms on one side or the other of the issue. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) officially rebuked the FCC for the move. NAR president Elizabeth Mendenhall said, “The FCC’s rollback of the Open Internet Order will mean higher costs and slower service for millions of American consumers and businesses.” She added, “Realtors have strong concerns about what that might mean for the way consumers search for homes online and real estate is transacted.”
What Net Neutrality Means?
The FCC’s official mission is to “regulate interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Net neutrality was implemented during the Obama administration and was controversial in 2015 when it was passed. Critics of net neutrality argue that it impedes technological innovation and competition in the digital marketplace. Proponents say that it keeps the ground even and prevents major companies from making agreements with certain entities to exclude smaller entities or businesses from search results.
For example, the NAR is concerned because under net neutrality, content like streaming videos and drone photography (both popular with online real estate listings), could not be excluded or pushed down in the results by internet service providers. Without net neutrality, these results theoretically might not appear in search rankings, especially in engines with paid-prioritization models. Mendenhall said, “The last thing small businesses need today is additional costs and competitive disadvantages that put them on the defensive…. This is a main street concern that affects businesses and consumers across the country.”
According to The Real Deal Los Angeles writer Dennis Lynch, net neutrality could theoretically slow popular real estate websites like Zillow to the point at which consumers might not want to use them. “The losses could trickle down to the small real estate professionals who derive business from them,” he wrote. Lynch added that while Zillow could probably afford to buy extra bandwidth to circumvent this problem, smaller companies might not.”
It remains to be seen whether net neutrality will have a significant effect on the real estate industry and on the internet at large. Many believe that the actual fallout of the rollback will be relatively unnoticeable, just as most internet users did not notice a major change when net neutrality was implemented. Only time will tell.