You may have heard a lot about Net Neutrality in the news recently. In fact, you’ve probably heard a lot about it a few months ago, and also a couple years ago.
That’s because it’s an ongoing war over the freedom of the internet, and another battle is coming up.
It can be easy to ignore because it seems like it’s just a bunch of big companies fighting over obscure laws. But if you’re a small business or nonprofit, it has a huge impact on you.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is a principle that says all websites should be treated equally. An internet service provider (ISP) such as AT&T or Verizon shouldn’t be able to slow down a website just because they want to. It’s also a law that prevents them from doing that.
Why is Net Neutrality Important?
It protects freedom of speech, competition, and innovation. Without it, an ISP can make fast and slow lanes on the internet. If they don’t like content on a website, they can slow it down. If a website is a competitor, they can slow it down. If a website doesn’t pay them special fees, they can slow it down.
This means that a website with a political or social view can be shut down. A startup company that directly competes with the big companies won’t have a chance. A small business that can’t afford to pay extra fees has a really slow website that loses customers.
Did We Always Have or Need Net Neutrality?
The internet has always had Net Neutrality as a principle, which allowed it flourish. But in 2015, at the demand of millions of citizens, it became law.
It had to become law because ISP’s violated this principle in the past. Here are a few examples:
- In 2005, Comcast blocked file sharing websites without letting their customers know.
- From 2007 to 2009, AT&T blocked voice calling apps on the iPhone like Skype and Google Voice, because they didn’t want them competing with regular phone calls.
- In 2010, Windstream hijacked searches on Google and redirected them to their own Windstream search portal and search results.
- In 2011, MetroPCS blocked all video streaming sites except for YouTube on their 4G network.
- From 2011 to 2013, AT&T, Sprint, & Verizon blocked Google Wallet because they were all invested in making their own payments app.
- In 2012, AT&T blocked Apple’s FaceTime feature unless its customers paid more for it.
- In 2014, Comcast and Verizon slowed down streaming services for Netflix, and forced it to pay extra fees to get it back to normal speed.
So in 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules that would prevent ISP’s from slowing down or blocking certain sites, requiring them to treat all websites equally.
What’s Happening to Net Neutrality?
The president’s newly appointed FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, wants to destroy Net Neutrality. In May of 2017, the FCC voted to move forward with Pai’s plan to eliminate the Net Neutrality rules. During the summer, the FCC was flooded with over 20 million public comments urging them not to do it. Pai ignored this, and on December 14, 2017, the FCC will vote on Pai’s proposal to eliminate Net Neutrality.
Who is Opposed to Net Neutrality? Why?
ISP’s are opposed to Net Neutrality and want it gone. They include ISP’s like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Charter, and big hardware providers like Cisco, Intel and IBM.
They oppose Net Neutrality because it restricts them from charging extra prices for certain websites. Without these rules, they could charge extra fees to companies who want their website to be faster.
Who Supports Net Neutrality? Why?
Millions of Americans support Net Neutrality because no one wants to pay extra fees to access special websites. All the leading tech companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, and Spotify, support Net Neutrality. They know their users need to be able to visit their websites, or any other website, equally without having to pay additional fees for it.
How Will Net Neutrality Affect My Business?
If you have a website, Net Neutrality affects you. It ensures that the internet is a level playing field. A potential customer can visit your competitor’s website or your website equally, and the business with the best product wins.
Without Net Neutrality, ISP’s can create a fast lane and slow lane. If you pay them a fee, people get to see your website at a normal speed. If you can’t afford to pay that fee, your website gets delivered super slow and people stop visiting it.
So big companies with a lot of cash can pay ISP’s for preferential treatment. Meanwhile small businesses or new startups don’t have a chance because people can’t visit their websites.
Net Neutrality means that any business such as yours with a great idea can create the next Google, Apple, or Facebook. Without Net Neutrality, you’ll never be able to outspend the big companies and your business will lose against them.
How Can I Ensure Net Neutrality Stays?
Before the vote happens on December 14, there are a lot of ways that you can pressure the FCC into keeping Net Neutrality.
Submit a Comment to the FCC
Go to https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express and submit a filing. In the Proceedings box, write 17-108. In the comments box, write that you support Net Neutrality and Title II oversight of ISPs. Write a short sentence or two about how Net Neutrality enables your small business to compete with big companies online, and how eliminating it will destroy completion and potentially put you out of business.
Here’s a sample message that you can copy and paste, or modify as you wish:
I’m a small business owner, and I support Net Neutrality and Title II oversight of ISPs. You all agree that small business is essential to the American economy, and my small business relies on a regulated internet that is fair for everyone. By removing Net Neutrality, you put my small business in jeopardy by enabling ISPs to charge extra for faster speeds, and I wouldn’t be able to compete with with big companies that can afford to pay those fees. Please keep Net Neutrality in place.
Email the FCC Leadership.
Here is their contact information:
- Ajit Pai, Chairman – [email protected]
- Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner – [email protected]
- Michael O’Rielly, Commissioner – [email protected]
- Brendan Carr, Commissioner – [email protected]
- Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner – [email protected]
Contact Your Representatives
Congress can influence the FCC. Find out who your representatives are at https://whoismyrepresentative.com/
Spread the Word
Share this with your partners and customers. Public pressure is what helped create Net Neutrality rules in 2015, and public pressure is what will save it in 2017.