Some of the biggest names in business, including Facebook, Amazon, and Walmart, are weighing in on net neutrality as the Federal Communications Commission reaches its deadline Monday to field comments on its plan to change the way the internet is regulated. Real estate brokers are also having their say; on their behalf, the National Association of REALTORS® is warning the FCC that a change to internet governance could cause unequal access to content such as listing photos and videos.
“A free and open internet is critical to REALTORS®,” NAR President William E. Brown says. “We must prevent internet providers from limiting access to real estate websites or charging those websites extra for the speed they depend on to deliver a high-quality experience.”
The FCC’s plan, which was released in May, would allow providers to enter into deals with websites to provide faster service in exchange for fees, among other items.
NAR has been a longstanding advocate of maintaining the existing regulatory structure, which allows consumers browsing listings and videos on the website of a small brokerage to have the same experience in terms of streaming speed as they would on a big listing aggregator. This regulatory structure was codified about two years ago when the FCC finalized its net neutrality rules.
With the FCC now proposing to roll that structure back, NAR has joined a coalition with hundreds of other businesses so it can bring the perspective of the real estate industry to the discussion. Should the FCC’s rollback take effect, the coalition’s next step may be to sue the FCC, NAR analysts say. It could take the FCC awhile to wade through the comments it has received on its plan: At last count, more than two million comments had been submitted, most of them expressing support for preserving the open internet.
Given the importance of the internet in real estate, the outcome will matter to brokers and sales associates. “As streaming video, virtual tours, and other technologies grow in popularity, concerns over how the internet is regulated will grow as well,” Brown says. “Net neutrality means stronger protections for our members and better results for the clients they serve. We’re hopeful the FCC considers these concerns as they examine the rule.”
—Robert Freedman, REALTOR® Magazine