An open Internet is essential for business growth and innovation
No one disputes the Internet is now a central part of our everyday lives, and critical to a strong economy. The Internet’s promise as an innovative, open platform has driven business growth and innovation and leveled the playing field for new entrants to the market.
For the past 16 years I have grown a successful Internet technology business in Illinois on that promise, helping hundreds of clients communicate to their audiences and enhance their services.
As the Federal Communications Commission readies for a Feb. 26 vote on rules for the Internet, the fundamental principle that has made the Internet a success, its openness and non-discrimination, is at risk.
A few large companies, including AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, are joining with their friends in Congress to maintain and grow their market dominance, at the expense of competition and a dynamic marketplace. They want to break the Internet into fast lanes and slow lanes, and then charge us twice: once to the receiver and once to the sender. We are the sender — businesses that want to make sure our audiences can reach us. If we don’t pay extra to be in the fast lane, then we will be relegated to the lane that frustrated audiences will learn to ignore. In short, Internet discrimination means a tax on small business.
Internet discrimination also means blocking innovation. Somewhere in Illinois, entrepreneurs young and not so young are dreaming up the next Facebook, Netflix or Amazon. Without adequate protections, these and other innovators in the economy will be “vulnerable to whims of broadband service providers,” according to Standard & Poors.
The solution is simple: net neutrality. Net neutrality simply means: no blocking, no throttling. no paid prioritization — and no discrimination.
The best way to protect the Internet is with Title II of the Federal Communications Act, which states that “common carriers” can’t “make any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services.” Simple. Clear.
Net neutrality provides the kinds of straightforward rules that Illinois businesses, big and small, need to navigate in the marketplace.
Net neutrality isn’t a conservative/liberal issue, or even a big/small issue. It’s really a few incumbent companies, who are notorious for poor service, against the rest of us.
“Protecting an open Internet is a position that reaches across the political divide,” says Andrew Shore, executive director of Internet Freedom Business Alliance, which conducted a poll in the matter. “In question after question, the research found that GOP and conservative voters are concerned with the effects of telcos having the power to block or influence content on the Internet.” Most of the tech community including Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, and many in the real estate and investor communities support net neutrality. and there has been overwhelming public support for net neutrality.
The FCC has received more comments on its Internet rules than any other issue — nearly seven million comments — the vast majority in support on net neutrality.
The issue has particular importance for women and minority owned businesses, often smaller and newer entrants to the market. We count our business among the 30 percent of business Illinois that are women-owned. In addition, racial and ethnic minorities own 20 percent of Illinois businesses. Without clear rules for net neutrality, discrimination will move online, blocking smaller and emerging businesses from growing their customer base.
Small businesses will suffer and jobs will be lost if big telecom companies game the system to control access on the Internet.
Right now, there are fake “open Internet” bills moving in Congress in an attempt to supercede the FCC’s authority to rule in favor of net neutrality.
Business leaders would do well to contact their congressional representatives to tell them our businesses need net neutrality. Congress should step down and let the FCC do its job.
Use this site to find out whose team your elected representatives are on and give them a call: www.battleforthenet.com. Read more through the Internet Freedom Business Alliance: www.netfreedom.us/resources.
Danielle Chynoweth is the organizing director of the Center for Media Justice. Danielle grew up in the Chicago area and has been a resident of Champaign-Urbana since 1995. For the past 16 years, she has been a partner of Pixo Technologies. She served as council member and then mayor pro tem of Urbana and was named Woman of the Year in 2011 by Central Illinois Business Magazine. She is a nationally recognized media policy expert.