Earlier this week, the United States government announced new laws for “net neutrality”, which seek to regulate how Internet service providers allow websites to be accessed and prioritized. How could this affect casino affiliates?

First, a little background: Net neutrality has been a controversial issue in the U.S. for the better part of the last decade, with many believing that the Internet should be left completely unregulated to ensure that all websites have a fair shot at reaching visitors, whether those sites are owned by a humble schoolteacher or a giant corporation.

“In a nutshell, the purpose of the rules is to make sure fixed-broadband and wireless-broadband service providers do not favor their own traffic and services over a competitors’ traffic and services,” explains Marguerite Reardon at CNET.

On the other side of the controversy, Internet service providers claim that they have the right to customize the services they offer. Why shouldn’t they be allowed special sponsorship opportunities, such as offering Yahoo a more prominent place in search results, if Yahoo is willing to pay more for it?

Well, you can understand how this would affect casino affiliate marketing, as well as most other forms of affiliate marketing, which all depend largely on SEO (search engine optimization), as well as the ability for the little guys to compete against the big guys. It doesn’t matter how well you market your site: If your larger competitor is able to buy its way to the top of the search engines, or pay for a faster loading time, that competitor is going to win. Every time. 

So which side of the debate do the new net neutrality laws favor? In the true spirit of modern American politics, both — and neither.

“The rules prohibit the blocking of lawful content on fixed broadband networks (I.E.: what you have in your home), and lawful websites on wireless networks (I.E.: what you get on cell phones), though wireless networks are otherwise exempt from these rules, with the stated reasoning being a lack of capability on those networks,” explains Christopher Bowen at DiehardGamefan.com (italics ours).

“That leaves the door open for wireless carriers to start doing things like charging extra for mobile access to specific services or sites (such as Facebook) — which,” writes Amy Gahran at CNN.com, “they’re already mulling.”

This has led politicians like Senator Al Franken to accuse the FCC of shortchanging mobile Internet users — arguably the future of the Internet. “Maybe you like Google Maps. Well, tough,” Franken said, per the New York Times. “If the F.C.C. passes this weak rule, Verizon will be able to cut off access to the Google Maps app on your phone and force you to use their own mapping program, Verizon Navigator, even if it is not as good. And even if they charge money, when Google Maps is free.”

True, the full details of the new net neutrality rules haven’t yet been rolled out, as Gahran explains. But for an industry with a strong future in mobile Internet use, this is a story that casino affiliates in the U.S. will want to stay on top of.

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