Net neutrality: Exactly how businesses and consumers will be affected by its recent repeal is still to be determined.

Now that internet service providers (ISPs) are no longer required to treat all internet traffic the same, what will they do instead, and what does it mean for IT administrators?

Today, we share some predictions and possibilities for how IT management will be affected in the post net neutrality world.

Will our connection costs go up or our service quality go down?

Depending on whom you ask, businesses (particularly smaller businesses) may find themselves getting worse deals from their ISPs . . . or they may get better deals. In the long run, one of the ideas behind repealing net neutrality is that it will encourage more competition and infrastructure investment.

So for businesses negotiating with their ISPs, new types of packaged services could emerge that could theoretically save some businesses money. Increased infrastructure investment may lead to faster internet becoming more widely available.

On the other hand, many observers expect that removing net neutrality means that faster internet service will become available only to those willing and able to pay more. Most ISPs have been careful since the repeal in late 2017 not to race out and raise prices for fear of upsetting customers.

However, ISPs are simultaneously cautious about what they promise to do or not do in the future. By stating that they won’t block or throttle legal content, providers are not necessarily promising that they won’t charge more for “fast lane” connections (also known as “paid prioritization”).

Some ISPs may be looking for creative ways to offer better deals to smaller businesses, and others may be seeking opportunities to increase prices where they can, to the detriment of those companies not large enough to have big budgets or big negotiating power.

The bottom line is that this is something IT managers should keep an eye on going forward as you make budget and operational plans. This applies across the board, to businesses of all types. In addition, any of the considerations below may influence the degree to which net neutrality’s repeal affects your IT administration costs or operations:

Number of ISPs in your market: One of the arguments in favor of repealing net neutrality is that it will increase competition, ultimately benefiting customers. Of course, price and service competition only apply if you are located in an area where there is more than one ISP able to provide fast internet (or any internet at all).

Again, theoretically, the reduction of regulation could mean that over time, areas with few ISP options may see more move into their markets, but this is not likely a change that will happen overnight.

Cloud service dependence: If your business depends on the cloud for a lot of your storage and computing needs, this is another reason to keep an eye on the plans of your ISP regarding connection speeds for different types of customers or traffic.

Here again is an area where larger, especially enterprise, businesses have more options – like negotiating for more favorable contracts when dealing with ISPs, installing direct lines to cloud data centers, or choosing to invest in and manage more of their own data centers. Smaller companies could see a need to make major shifts to budgets or operating models in order to adjust.

Industry-specific effects: Your industry could also play a role in whether net neutrality repeal, and the decisions that ISPs make because of it, have a significant impact. For instance, those companies whose revenue depends largely on delivering digital content to their customers could be among the first to see upcharges for faster speeds.

Mobile app designers may need to adapt their product development to maintain app performance under changing conditions. Many analysts are also saying that the Internet of Things (IOT) could be an easy target for paid prioritization. Much of what is sold in this sector falls under the category of luxury items that people are willing to pay more to use. Those items that are not as high-end may end up on the slow-down list. These are just a few examples, but as you can see, not all industries will be affected equally.

Exactly how, when, and how much things will change for businesses (particularly smaller ones) in a post net neutrality world is still unfolding.

Monitor your connection speeds and the intentions of ISPs in your area so you stay on top of changes that could affect your costs and service quality. Government regulation may no longer be protecting you from these changes, but businesses still have the power to vote with their dollars if they believe that ISPs are making moves that will be detrimental.

Not all geographic areas have multiple high-speed providers to choose from, but even in those areas where competition is low, it’s in the interest of ISPs to have happy customers. If you’re concerned about how your provider’s actions will affect your budget or operations, now is the time to let them know.