End of net neutrality could spell doom for real estate small businesses

Move to allow internet providers to charge varying rates for online content could impact small businesses and mom-and-pop brokerages

In a sweeping rebuke to internet companies and consumers, U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday released a plan to repeal so-called “Net Neutrality” regulations, a move with far-reaching implications for mom-and-pop brokerages and real estate services across America.

Pai’s plan would dismantle the two-year-old Open Internet Order, which prohibits internet providers from blocking or slowing down websites, or charging higher fees for certain websites online and bundling services, much as cable providers bundle certain channels together and charge extra for premium ones like HBO and Showtime.

“Today, we propose to repeal utility-style regulation of the Internet,” said Pai, an Obama appointee to the FCC, elevated by Trump into Chairman of the agency, who voted against the Open Internet Order in 2015. “We propose to return to the Clinton-era light-touch framework that has proven to be successful. And we propose to put technologists and engineers, rather than lawyers and accountants, at the center of the online world. The evidence so far strongly suggests that this is the right way to go.”

While Pai champions his proposal as a return to free market principles, many technologists and activists are alarmed by the implications. The likely repeal, to be finalized next month when the commission meets for a regular session, would negate a ruling declaring broadband internet as an essential utility, and the companies that provide it such as Comcast or Time Warner (Spectrum) as “common carriers” under “Title II” of the Communications Act of 1934, not unlike phone service and electricity. This part of the act states that “common carriers” must be “just and reasonable,” when charging consumers.

If internet providers were suddenly exempted from this provision as Pai proposes, they could technically begin charging internet users more to access to certain websites such as Netflix, Google, or, more likely, smaller websites that don’t see as high demand, such as Inman.com or local mom-and-pop brokerage websites. See an example of what that would look like compiled by a Reddit user (Redditor) below:

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Providers could also “throttle” consumer access to certain websites outside their bundles, making them load more slowly than other privileged websites included in a bundle, and could force consumers to pay more to make these websites load normally. Ironically, even the FCC’s website which was used to post Pai’s plan could be slowed under the new de-regulation effort.

We don’t have to imagine what the U.S. would look like without net neutrality: Portugal has already shown that web services end up bundled when there are no regulations preventing this.

For internet-centric real estate companies like Redfin, Zillow and realtor.com, the rollback could have a deleterious effect, with internet providers making it more expensive to access these websites reliably. Additionally, to remain competitive brokers and real estate services might be forced to pay extra in order to ensure their workforces could access all the websites they rely on, should providers choose to offer a tiered-service model.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR), which sent a letter to the FCC in July urging Pai to reconsider his motion to repeal the Open Internet Order, reaffirmed its opposition Tuesday, accusing the agency of stacking the deck against smaller companies in favor of corporations. Ninety-three percent of NAR members report using the internet to promote their business while a mere two percent said they have no web presence, according to NAR data. As NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall said in a statement:

“Technology is an increasingly important part of the way our membership delivers its services, whether through streaming video, drone technology, or other applications. We remain concerned that a rollback of net-neutrality rules could lead to blocking, throttling, or discriminating against Internet traffic, or even ‘paid prioritization’ arrangements that put small mom-and-pop businesses at a disadvantage in the marketplace. We will continue working with the FCC to share these concerns and ensure a fair and open internet where everyone can succeed.”

In a statement, Redfin blasted the FCC decision, saying it would penalize independent brokers as well as the Seattle-based brokerage and database service itself by raising fees, blocking content and slowing down service.

“Redfin’s mission to redefine real estate in the consumer’s favor depends on free and open access to information about every home for sale, whether it be on Redfin.com or on a small website run by the real estate agent who’s listing the home,” wrote Redfin Chief Economist Nela Richardson. “Removing the framework that prevents internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T from slowing down and blocking websites, or charging apps and sites extra fees to reach an audience, is in direct conflict with our mission to make housing data more transparent and easily accessible to consumers.”

The proposal, which would shift power from the FCC to telecom behemoths like AT&T and Comcast, is expected to easily pass on Dec. 14, when the agency’s commission, comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats, will vote largely along party lines with the Republicans supporting Pai’s plans, according to reports.

 

For more info on this article, visit: inman.com

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Cybersecurity and Wire Fraud

Cybersecurity and wire fraud breaches remain valid threats in the real estate industry, despite available precautions. In fact, wire fraud was the No. 1 type of fraud in 2016, causing $50 billion in losses, according to PointPredictive’s Chief Fraud Strategist Frank McKenna.

Worse yet, wire fraud losses happen instantly, and most are untraceable back to the culprit. It can happen in real estate transactions when hackers break into an agent’s or client’s email account and look for upcoming transaction dates. The criminal, posing as the agent or title officer, emails the buyer with wiring instruction changes in the eleventh hour. If the buyer complies, the money is gone—just like that. Unfortunately, the offer for the house usually falls through, as well.

Cybersecurity breaches result in major losses, as well. For example, Equifax is offering consumers free credit-file monitoring and identity theft protection for one year since it experienced a massive breach of consumer information earlier this year.

Follow these tips to prevent being a victim of fraud or identity theft:

  • Do not use public WiFi to conduct any transactions or business.
  • Verify wire instructions received via email with a phone call to the sender.
  • Use secure applications to collaborate online.
  • Sign documents online using digital signature, two-step verification software.

Using software designed for security and authenticity like zipCommunity™ by zipLogix™ can help thwart hackers and thieves. zipCommunity, included in the zipForm® Plus application created by zipLogix, allows all parties involved with a transaction to communicate live with one another through video, audio or text chat. Users can complete a transaction entirely online in a secure digital environment. All changes to documents are tracked in a history section embedded within the transaction, creating a paper trail of every edit and document view. Both the agent and client receive a notification any time a change is made by either party.

When time constraints don’t allow meeting in person to sign documents, digital signatures prevail over electronic signatures. What’s the difference between digital and electronic signatures? Any signature in electronic form, such as one written on a tablet with a stylus, constitutes an electronic signature. It’s susceptible to tampering or altering, which diminishes legal protection. A digital signature is embedded in the document, securing the identity of each signer, as well as the document’s content.

zipLogix Digital Ink®, the company’s secure e-signature solution, ensures that the digital signatures on documents are legal and valid by taking things one step further in the transaction process. Documents signed using zipLogix Digital Ink® are time-stamped, and the signature is permanently attached to the document. Any attempt to change or tamper with the digital signatures will automatically and visibly invalidate the document.

Cyber threats and wire fraud will persist as long as real estate professionals continue performing transactions online, but it’s not necessary to resort to the old-fashioned way of doing business just to stay secure. Improvements in protection mechanisms against these crimes are staying one step ahead, outsmarting and preventing criminals from getting access to confidential information.

For more info on this article, visit: RIS Media

Open House Thieves Targeting Open Houses

Group Targeting Open Houses.

Three people in this car attended our brokers open house in Ladera Ranch yesterday and managed to steal a few personal items from our client.

They claimed they had a home to sell in beverly hills, they had 5 children and it was the reason they used to go upstairs. Once upstairs they split up to different rooms and while one distracted my associate the other two began their search. They mentioned they wanted to leave Los Angeles to better schools and less traffic.

One male 5’3″ thin build wore a baseball hat, two females 5’0 all had black hair. The male distracted my associate while the two females searched for items to steal. One of the females referred to the male an Milo or Mino .

When asked for info they would go around the question and asked for the business card instead.

We also found out that they hit San Clemente / Talega area. (see image)

Be careful out there.

If this happened to you please call the sheriff and feel free to call us 949-342-6229

The license plate in case you cannot see the image is 4LCV705. It is gold colored Toyota Camry.

Thank you,

Michael-Edward Cruz

 

For more info on this article, visit: Mailchimp

6 Things Buyers Should Know About Home Warranties

Unless you’ve purchased a brand-new home that includes warranties on the newly installed systems and appliances, there’s no guarantee you’re covered for repair or replacement if something stops working in your new place. One way for buyers of pre-owned homes to protect themselves against the risk of costly repairs is to consider purchasing a home warranty.

A few things you should know about home warranties:

1. They’re NOT homeowner’s insurance.

Homeowner’s insurance generally protects the structure of your home and your possessions inside your home, while warranties cover appliances and systems. For example, some things covered by a warranty would be repairs to your furnace, hot water heater or electrical system. Homeowner’s insurance, on the other hand, typically covers repairs of damage to the home from theft, fire and some weather-related incidents; it also covers injuries that are caused by these types of incidents.

2. They’re not all-inclusive.

Although warranties usually include HVAC, plumbing and electrical, they do not include everything you might personally consider a “system” or “appliance.” It depends on the specific policy. For example, some basic policies cover septic systems; others don’t. Talk with your warranty issuer to make sure you’re getting the coverage you want and need.

3. They cover the unknown.

Any existing issues with your systems and appliances should have been found during your home inspection and addressed prior to you taking ownership of the home, if you negotiated repairs and replacements. Warranty companies consider problems identified during a home inspection as “known conditions,” and often don’t cover them. Home warranties generally cover “unknown conditions,” issues that would not have been revealed through a normal home inspection or ones that develop after you move in.

4. They won’t break the bank.

Generally, home warranties range from about $350 to $500 per year. Often, it’s up to you to purchase a policy. Other times, sellers may include a policy as added incentive during negotiation of the home sale. Some real estate agents give homebuyers a home warranty as a gift after the home purchase is settled.

5. They come with fine print.

There are a number of companies that offer home warranties. Ask your agent for guidance on where to turn. And be sure to read the entire policy to confirm exactly what’s covered, to what extent and the steps you’ll take if you ever need to file a claim.

6. They’re great for first-timers.

Home warranties can be especially helpful in providing peace of mind for first-time homebuyers who are unfamiliar with home maintenance and repairs – as well as buyers of high-mileage homes – especially during the first year.

For guidance on home warranties and all facets of the home buying process, find a local RE/MAX agent who’s ready to help.

For more info on this article, visit: REMAX Blog

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