In our August blog post we discussed how net neutrality is crucial for small businesses. Since then, the chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has announced that the FCC will be voting on whether to roll back the net neutrality regulation that has been in place since 2015. The current regulation prevents "[i]nternet access providers from blocking content, websites and applications, slowing or speeding up services or classes of service, and charging online services for access or fast lanes to Internet access providers' customers." Pai believes these regulations should be replaced by far less strict ones that "require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to disclose any blocking or prioritization of their own content or from their partners."
The FCC vote will take place on Thursday, December 14, at its monthly meeting, and, since three of five commissioners have stated they support the rollback, it is expect to pass. Why is this a problem? Because a neutral internet levels the playing field and allows small and medium sized businesses to compete for customers. Huge conglomerates can afford to pay for the high speed internet necessary to serve their customers quickly, and they can make arrangements with ISPs that will allow their content to continue to be seen. If possible, they can and will edge out their competitors' space on the internet. Many small businesses exist only on the internet and do all of their sales via e-commerce, in fact. Eighty percent of businesses with fewer than 500 employees are one-man operations. 23 million enterprises are facing a David vs. Goliath fight without net neutrality.
Many internet experts have called upon Congress to cancel the FCC's vote. What can you do as a business owner and a consumer who opposes what will likely be higher fees for the same access? How can we protect net neutrality? On December 12, people across the nation are demonstrating by "breaking" the internet to show consumers what our internet future might be according to the Pai's vision. Owners will be pulling their websites and making them inaccessible in order to inspire people to contact their representatives in Congress and let them know that you oppose what the FCC is planning to do.
In between December 12 and December 14 are two days for action. Senators and representatives will not be able to ignore the wishes of their constituents if we show our disagreement and let them know that a neutral internet is a fair internet!
Fight for the Future has released guidelines to let people help in this effort. They advise us to:
This isn't over yet, even if it looks bleak. Call your representative and your senator now and let them know you want them to protect net neutrality. A level playing field is essential for small business innovation and success and benefits us all. Call today!