I normally write on topics related to personal or commercial insurance however, I’d like to stray from that this week. On Monday, President Obama stirred the net neutrality debate when he said a free and open internet is as critical to American’s lives as electricity and telephone service. He went on to say the internet should be regulated like these utilities to protect consumers.
Conservative politicians reacted to the President’s speech (you can see it here http://www.whitehouse.gov/net-neutrality), with cries this was Obamacare for the internet or worse. Other groups supported President Obama’s call for a free and open internet available to all. While it would be easy to blindly follow in lockstep behind a party’s pronouncements for or against net neutrality, I propose we remove our red or blue ties for a moment and think about this from the standpoint of small business owners.
Net neutrality, in pure layman’s terms, simply means a small business owner like myself gets the same access to people on the internet as large companies, such as Netflix, YouTube, eBay, etc. do. There’s no super-fast internet lane for them that they’ve paid for while Wise Insurance Group, Richardson Bike Mart, Hypnotic Donuts, or other small businesses are relegated to a poorly paved country road. Not only could millions of other small businesses be pushed onto a slow lane, we could potentially be blocked by an internet service provider such as AT&T, Comcast, or Time Warner, because we didn’t pay extra for access while a larger company did.
The internet has exploded over the last 20 years. For example, Amazon was founded in 1994. At the time, no one believed they’d succeed against the likes of Barnes and Noble or Borders (remember them?!) because they were entrenched booksellers, and who’d buy a book or CD online? The internet enabled a fledgling company to become a giant that now rivals Walmart in size. The same could be said for eBay, Netflix, Zappos, and other companies who have grown and become competitive because of a free and open internet. My concern as a small business owner is without net neutrality, the internet service providers and large companies willing to pay for fast internet pipes are able to build defensible positions which keep small business owners off the playing field or on an uneven field at best.
I believe now is the time for small business owners to speak up and share what they are for or against with our elected officials in the Congress and Senate, as well as the appointed officials in the FCC. The FCC will ultimately decide for or against net neutrality, but it’s important for our elected officials to hear our voice too! Below are links to both branches and the FCC.
- US Senate: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
- US Congress: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/
- FCC http://www.fcc.gov/contact-us
Will it make a difference to share what we want or believe? I don’t know, but I do know if small business owners don’t speak up, then people in positions of power will make decisions that may not be in our best interest. Share your thoughts, either way, as well as your questions on our Google + and Facebook pages. I’d love to hear from you!