Net Neutrality – Why Should You Care?

What is Net Neutrality? 

In short, it’s the FCCs rules which require companies, in particular Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Cox, etc. , to treat all content equally.  These rules (note that they are rules, not laws) prohibit ISPs from blocking or discriminating against lawful Internet content.

In a world where ISPs are playing multiple roles (content creator and content distributor, to name a few), the Net Neutrality rules are designed to protect the consumer.  For example, Verizon (who now owns AOL and Yahoo) cannot slow down content from Facebook and Google.  Cox Communciations cannot slow down content from Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu (or even worse, block Netflix altogether), in an effort to curb the trend of cord cutting.  ISPs cannot “throttle down” startups developing competing online services.  Nor can these ISPs charge more for content from one company versus another.

In short, Net Neutrality recognizes that unique position that ISPs have in delivering what is arguably a public service built initially with public funding, and imposes rules to ensure that they maintain a level playing field for all Internet providers.

Why Is Everyone Talking About Net Neutrality?

Consumer protections under Net Neutrality changed yesterday.  Claiming that Net Neutrality rules are not necessary in the protection of consumer choice and freedom of speak, the FCC voted 3-2 to eliminate the key consumer protections afforded in Net Neutrality.  This means that ISPs are no longer limited in how they prioritize content delivery via the Internet.

What’s Being Done Now To Protect Net Neutrality?

Several state Attorney Generals have moved challenge the FCC ruling.  Others are using existing state subsidies as a carrot to force ISPs to maintain Net Neutrality rules.  In either case, we’ve moved from a unified nationwide system to a state by state system … which hardly seems efficient.

What Can You Do?

At this point, the best thing you can do is contact your legislators.  Congress can enact a law that would offer the same protections as the FCC rules.  This is a topic that impacts Internet companies and consumers alike.

Minimum Viable Audiences

In product development we use the term Minimum Viable Product (or MVP) quite often.  Techopedia defines Minimum Viable Product as “a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters.”  In other words, the Minimum Viable Product is quite literally the minimum product features that can be implemented while still allowing the product to be viable.  The goal is to launch a product which does a few things extremely well, and is applicable to a broad base of customers, rather than developing and launching a product which has countless half-baked features of interest to only one or two customers.

After years of leading Go-To-Market turnaround strategies for several startups, I can tell you that most product launch failures can be traced back to a deviation from the MVP mindset.  Scope / feature creep driven by large marquee clients is the kiss of death for a product launch. A laser focused product launch which utilizes feedback from a finite trusted audience to prioritize current and future feature development is the core of a Minimum Viable Product launch – and most importantly, it works!  Which brings us to the topic of Minimum Viable Audience (or MVA).

A Minimum Viable Audience is similar to a Minimum Viable Product, but the focus is on the person (or the audience) instead of the product.  Where with a MVP your goal is build a lean and focused product, with the MVA your goal is to build a lean and focused audience.

Following the adage “you can’t be everything to everyone”, the MVA approach starts with achieving relevance with one (or more) small focused groups of current or potential customers.  Before you begin to build the product, you build the audience.  And then, working closely with the audience, you build the product using a Minimum Viable Product approach.  The audience provides guidance on product demand, features, and in some cases even pre-launch funding.  While they are not the perfect example of an MVA, crowd funding sites like KickStarter and Indigogo as examples of pre-launches funded by audiences.

The most important thing to recognize about MVAs is that you need to start building your audience well before you start product development.  The audience(s) can be made up of brand loyalists, customers, or even sourced from other influencers.  Once you’ve built the audience, then your focus is facilitating a dynamic conversion which allows you to glean data from the audience.  Email, Online Surveys, Video Conference, and Webinars are all good avenues to engage with your audience.

Remember, its never too early to start building your Minimum Viable Audience.