fresh voices from the front lines of change







Small businesses can’t compete without an open Internet. Today, hundreds of activists, big companies and small businesses are coming together for a Net Neutrality Day of Action.

In 2010, the Obama Administration issued the Open Internet Order, which prohibited internet service providers (ISPs) and cable companies from blocking, slowing down websites, or giving preferential treatment to certain websites. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) oversees the enforcement of an open internet, also called “net neutrality.”

With net neutrality, ISPs can’t determine the pages you see or the speeds at which they download or stream. However, the Trump Administration's appointees at the FCC want to undermine net neutrality. and repeal the Open Internet Order, an action that would have serious ramifications.

Ok, I know all this policy and technology talk can get a bit wonky. John Oliver does a great job breaking it down. Let me add a few more reasons why keeping the internet free from corporate influence matters to us all:

  1. Small businesses and entrepreneurs rely on a free and neutral internet to sell products.  In the past, ISPs slowed down internet speeds on other companies’ websites until the other company agreed to pay a fee. For example, in April 2014, the average connection speed of Netflix users on Comcast's broadband network was more than 80 percent higher than it was in January 2014 - the two had reached a deal in the intervening months. While big, multinational companies have the funds to pay a bribe to ISPs, small businesses do not.

  2. If they are pushed into the “slow lane,” small businesses will lose business to big companies. According to an Akamai study, it does not take much for a customer to abandon a page if the internet connection is slow. About 47 percent of customers expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less, and studies have shown that 50-60% of customers abandon a web page that takes more than 3 seconds to load. If small businesses can’t offer the same internet speed as big companies, their customer base will quickly evaporate.

  3. If ISPs impose premiums on high speed internet, small businesses might be forced to make cuts elsewhere, including jobs. Depending on how high ISP fees are, small businesses may face financial strain just to gain visibility and to promote their business. This situation could mean less money for additional hiring.

  4. Breaking up internet monopolies helps small businesses. The US does not even rank in the top 10 countries in the world for fastest internet speed, according to Business Insider, and according to the Department of Commerce, only 37 percent of Americans have access to two or more ISPs that offered internet speeds of 24mbps or greater. Small businesses, just like all internet customers, and would benefit from more competition in the ISP market.

  5. The overall U.S. economy would suffer because small businesses would be unable to compete.  Eighty-eight percent of the country’s businesses have less than five employees, and 70 percent of those businesses are independent workers.  Net neutrality could mean that up to 88 percent of the country’s businesses would not have the resources to make agreements with ISPs for faster internet service.  As a result, these businesses would almost surely see their profits fall. Falling profits for up to 88 percent of the country’s  businesses is bad for job growth and the economy as a whole.

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