The net neutrality and small business issue emerged last month, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released their plan to repeal net neutrality rules. These rules were originally put in place to make sure internet providers give consumers equal access to online content.
There has been pressure on internet service providers (ISPs) since the early days of the internet to provide a level playing field. Then clear, legal regulations for net neutrality were passed in 2015 during the Obama administration to ensure high speed ISPs wouldn’t be able to delay the delivery/loading speed of websites.
Now the proposal to repeal the net neutrality rules, made by FCC chairman Ajit Pai, could change everything. The vote to rescind net neutrality will be on Dec. 14 and right now the majority of the commission is in favor of getting rid of it.
However, once the announcement was made, the FCC received backlash from opponents, stating that it will hurt consumers and businesses (especially small businesses) alike. According to a poll taken by Morning Consult and Politico, 52 percent of registered voters are in support of the net neutrality regulations – that means only 18 percent agree with Pai.
Then research from Internet Association states, “Efforts to replace the 2015 Open Internet Order are not based on economic fact. ISPs have failed to prove that the Order specifically necessitates reversal of FCC policy.”
If net neutrality is repealed, it will be beneficial for large telecom and cable companies, but small and medium sized internet businesses will take a hit. According to Christian Dawson, the executive director of i2Coalition, the repeal could even decrease jobs and economic growth.
What is Net Neutrality?
To better break it down, net neutrality helps small companies because its rules enforce an open internet. This concept makes it so that big, name brand businesses, such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix, won’t be able to provide faster internet just because they can pay more. But instead, all internet access is created equal amongst every business owner and user.
It also prevents business owners from making customers pay additional fees in order to use high-quality internet streaming.
How Revoking Net Neutrality Affects Small Business Owners
Net neutrality is good for business. If net neutrality rules weren’t in place, then there could be more of a pay-to-play concept. This would mean the internet would be divided into two parts – the fast lane and the slow lane. The fast lane would be run by large media and internet companies. Then everyone else would be stuck in the slow lane.
Small businesses will be highly affected by this because they won’t be making as much as the name brand companies. They will suffer if they have to pay to provide faster internet. Since they won’t be able to keep up with the cost of faster internet, this would mean potential customers would have a hard time loading and navigating through their site. These businesses could lose customers due to the inconvenience of slower loading times.
Many people have already spoken up about how revoking net neutrality is bad for business and small business owners. Some feedback from the public regarding losing net neutrality includes:
Harper's Garden is a small, local business and, thanks to net neutrality, an emerging ecommerce site. Killing Net Neutrality means killing small business. ISPs could throttle my site and make it unattainable bc I can't pay $$$ in service fees. #NetNeutrality pic.twitter.com/7M13JUCRSr— Harper's Garden (@HarpersGarden) November 27, 2017
Revoking #NetNeutrality would further the digital divide across the nation, for everyone from low-income families, to small business owners, to students.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) November 28, 2017
What Can You Do?Do you see how getting rid of net neutrality hurts your small business? Or even how net neutrality is affecting business owners everywhere?
Because the vote to withdraw net neutrality is on Dec. 14, people are wondering what they can do to stop it.
According to Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge, the best thing to do at this time is voice your opinion. If small and medium size businesses protest enough, stating that their business won’t stand a chance if there isn’t a level playing field, then the plan could be reconsidered. Companies, such as Google and Facebook are also expected to encourage the public to speak out against the repeal.
This is the best way to handle the repeal because Congress has the ability to revoke the actions of an agency. Also if Pai sees there’s a political liability, he has the ability to delay the vote. So if you’re concerned about the changes that could occur, now is the time to speak up.