Makers and Net Neutrality: An Important Off-Topic Post

We are taking a break from our usual blog topics to discuss something that's foundational to the ability for all of us to run a business-- a free and open internet. Today is a day of action for net neutrality in the US and so we wanted to make sure we participated in this important day.

On December 14th the Federal Communications Committee (FCC in the US) is set to make changes that will allow Communications Providers (ISPs, Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, etc) to pick and choose what websites load faster or make sites purposefully load slower for you.  

I know some people say they "don't like to get political" (I think this is misguided as our entire world is political and if you're in a democracy it's your duty to participate). But I think what they usually mean is they don't want to get mixed up in partisan politics. This isn't a *partisan* issue. It's a small business, entrepreneurial issue. It's a consumer issue.

It's something we can take for granted, but things could look A LOT different were it not for being free and open as it is now. So here's a little primer on all of this.

What is net neutrality? It’s the basic principle that everyone should be able to create and access everything the internet has to offer, including content, services, and applications, without internet providers blocking sites or slowing them down.

Comcast, Verizon and AT&T have paid millions in lobbying to make this happen and the current head of the FCC was a former lawyer for Verizon. They want net neutrality gone so they can charge fees to sites like yours and mine to keep the website loading fast and if we don’t pay, it would be legal for them to artificially slow down the site.

These companies have already tried these tactics before, but because of net neutrality rules consumers had a legal standing to stop them. Communication companies have used similar methods to slow protest sites, block union websites from loading, and prevent people from being able to access Google wallet, Paypal and other payment services. When Comcast was in negotiations with Netflix slowed their connection speeds when Netflix refused to agree to unreasonable fees, once Netflix signed the contract, the speeds were magically restored.  

Why does net neutrality matter to makers? Net neutrality allows online small business owners like you to compete with much bigger and more established brands online. Repealing net neutrality could have serious consequences, including the following:

  • Increased costs: If the FCC eliminates net neutrality protections, online businesses could be forced to pay additional fees for content prioritization or risk having their sites slowed or blocked from potential customers.
  • Potential reduction in website traffic and sales: Internet speed impacts the bottom line. Research from Google and Microsoft shows that shoppers are less likely to visit a website if the page loads more than 250 milliseconds slower than its competitor.
  • Decreased access to helpful resources: Makers depend on each other and the community for information that meets their unique needs. Under the FCC’s proposal, makers might have a harder time finding and sharing online content that can benefit the community at large.

So today I ask you to join me along with thousands of other online businesses in sending a clear message to our lawmakers. Net neutrality needs to stay, it’s imperative that we have a free and open internet.  

If you’re willing to join me, go to this site to **call** your representative.