Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Why Net Neutrality Matters To Credit Unions

Update 1/3/18: The vote has been made. Net Neutrality is set to disappear (60 days from vote). That doesn’t mean the fight is over! We’ve now entered a period of regulatory confusion. Credit unions love that, right? It’s time to demand Congressional action to clarify what in the world it all means for credit unions! And maybe, just maybe, reduce the damage it will do. Volunteers, lobbyists, members…unite!

You may have read something online about Net Neutrality.  Or, your techie friend insisted you submit a comment to the FCC about it.  “The fate of the Internet rests on our speaking out!”, or something along those lines.

What is it, and why am I talking about it on a credit union blog?

Put simply, it’s the principle that all information is treated equally.  And, without it, could mean the end of credit unions.

Net Neutrality has always been a part of the World Wide Web, from its humble beginnings.  Tiny upstarts like Google and Netflix got to where they are today because of net neutrality.  How?  Let’s revisit the early days of Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  They are the companies we pay to get us online.  In the early days, it was done through the screeching modem and a list of phone numbers.  Now, it’s your cable, fiber, or DSL connection.  In the 90s, dial-up was common and there were multiple choices for service.  The precursor to my own company ran on an ISP out of Miami.  They were great; fair pricing, experienced support, and we knew we were supporting a local business.  The web through one ISP was the exact same web as through another.  As a result, you knew that your website would load on any other person’s computer, and at approximately the same speed, no matter who they paid to get online, or where they were located.

Now, most of us use one of just a few mega-companies.  In fact, there’s a good chance you have no actual competition in your market.  Sure, you can choose between cable and U-Verse (AT&T) or FIOS (Verizon), but that’s not really competition, is it?  It’s like going to the market and looking for some fruit.  They might have bales of oranges from one farm.  The only other choice is a display of different oranges.  Both seem overpriced.  If you ask the staff where any other fruits are, they explain that it is illegal to carry them.  But that’s a whole separate story.

Bottom line, to get online (via a wire or your phone), you’re using one of a small list of giant corporations.  You don’t have a choice.  And they want to make more money.

Net Neutrality ensures that every site you click or every video you watch gets the same priority through your ISPs lines.  There are provisions for QoS (Quality of Service) technologies to make live communication work better (like FaceTime, Skype, or watching a live Apple event), but no one gets access to an HOV/express lane at the expense of others.  This is a good thing, as it ensures that everyone is on an even playing field.

Here’s where Net Neutrality becomes life or death for credit unions.

Imagine Net Neutrality is erased and the few mega-corporations controlling our access to the Internet decide to take sides (for profit or ideological pursuits).  Maybe Chase and Bank of America have been extremely loyal supporters of Comcast’s lobbying efforts.  It’s good to have friends.  Well, as a “reward”, Comcast decides to give both these banks priority access to all of Comcast’s customers.  Goodness, do their sites load fast on my iPad!  But I should log in to my credit union as well.  Hmm, it doesn’t seem to be loading.  What’s this?  “To access this and 3,000 other financial institution websites, please subscribe to our Banking and More package for only $5 a month.  FYI: You always have free access to Bank of America and Chase Bank!  Thanks for being a loyal Comcast subscriber.”

Do you think your members will pay to access your site?  Some might, but many will just move their banking relationship to the free sites.  Unless you can pay Comcast for priority access?  Yeah, didn’t think that was in your budget.

Oh, and I didn’t mention AT&T.  Or Verizon.  You can pay them too, right?

A loss of Net Neutrality is a loss for the entire credit union movement.

You may be thinking, “yeah, ok, it may not be good, but he’s overreacting.”  Wish I were.  Portugal has been in the news as an example of what happens when Net Neutrality goes away.  Their internet access has “zero-rating” data tiers (so you don’t accrue data usage when visiting certain sites), a first step towards this environment.

We need Net Neutrality for an open exchange of information, ideas, and business relationships.  I’m imploring you to speak out.  You may visit to submit a comment.  But I’d also suggest you speak to your representatives directly.

All 100 million credit union members are depending on it.

Update: Clarified web access in Portugal.


  1. Thanks Joe, its a little late now, but too much to handle with this administration. Ive already lost access to my online credit card account.

    • Donna, thanks for your message. You’re right, there is a lot to take in on a daily basis. Though it may seem to be too late for Net Neutrality, in fact, the debate has just begun. This is the time for credit unions to step up and demand clarity on the rules (which are nonexistent now) from Congress. Like any other regulatory issue, credit unions hate “surprises” and haphazard rule making. With the support of their members plus millions of citizens and businesses, I believe Net Neutrality principles have a chance. It’s just going to be a tough road, and, sadly, it will negatively affect many credit unions and their members before substantive action occurs.

      Also, your credit card account access has nothing to do with Net Neutrality being lost. I’d look into that. 🙂

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