The decision late last year by the Federal Communications Commission to do away with net neutrality could be a blow to small online businesses, although the extent of the impact remains unknown.

That’s because there are many moving parts in the net neutrality issue, including promises being made by internet service providers. As things stand, it comes down to who you choose to believe.

Before understanding the current situation, it’s important to understand just what the FCC eliminated.

What Is Net Neutrality?

During the administration of President Barack Obama, rules were put in place by the FCC to maintain net neutrality. This meant that internet service providers could not discriminate between websites, slowing down page loading speeds from one page and speeding them up for another.

They also could not censor content from one site in favor of another.

The idea was to create a level playing field where the site with the best content, design and product would “win” the most web traffic. It gave those with a great idea but a limited budget a chance to succeed.

That still will be the case, internet service providers argue. Companies such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon issued statements earlier this year saying they support the open Internet and will not discriminate against one site in favor of another.

Concerns For Small Business

Of course, that does not assure many people. Maybe most people.

Small online business owners fear they will be crushed in search engine results, and in the quality of access to their site, by big conglomerates that can afford to pay fees to internet service providers for bigger bandwidth and a better experience for users on their sites.

The National Small Business Association also opposed the repeal, voicing concerns it would allow internet service providers the option of charging fees for bandwidth use, reducing access to some sites and information on the web, and lowering the chances of those with less resources from being found by consumers.

They also argued the change will make it more difficult for a business with a new technology or product to get noticed. As Forbes pointed out, something new such as Vines would never have been noticed if You Tube videos were always prioritized by internet service providers.

Other than monitoring how your site looks and loads on the web – and complaining to internet service providers about the issue – there is little for a small business to do. At this point, everyone hopes the internet service providers are as good as their word and they will not play favorites with sites on the web.