Network neutrality is a very important issue that suffers from terrible branding. “It’s one of those names that kind of glides by you, it doesn’t generate a lot of interest,” says David Placek, founder of Lexicon Branding. “I would really consider thinking about a new phrase.” But what?
Coined by Columbia law professor Tim Wu, net neutrality refers to the principal that Internet service providers treat all content, websites, and platforms equally. It’s a principle that may now be dead: Last week a federal appeals court struck down the Federal Communication Commission’s net neutrality rules, opening the doors for providers to charge companies such as Netflix (NFLX) fees for faster, more seamless streaming. Consumer advocates say those costs may be passed on to customers, and that the ruling may result in a tiered Internet whose providers can even block websites at will.
The court decision has far-reaching implications, but most people aren’t paying attention. ”As advocates, [net neutrality is] a horrible term to organize around,” admits Timothy Karr, senior director of strategy at Free Press, a group that promotes universal, affordable access to the Internet. When Free Press originally began pushing the term in 2006, he says, “even Ariana Huffington wrote and said: This is an important issue, but net neutrality is a horrible term.”