December 13, 2016

The Importance Of Net Neutrality For Startups

Here at SolutionsWide, we pride ourselves on our ability to guide different businesses from ideas in someone’s head to actual entities that provide value to their customer base. Currently, two of our ventures are based online. Amilli Media is a network of content sites that provide a wide range of articles and general interest pieces that entertain millions of users each week, and Brax is a content marketing software that allows hundreds of ads to be created and scaled within a matter of minutes. Although both of these companies are still relatively young, we’re proud to say that they are growing at a brisk pace, which wouldn’t be possible without net neutrality.

Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers must provide equal access to all content and applications, regardless of where they come from. Under this principle, ISPs cannot give preferential treatment to certain products or websites, nor can they strike deals with big partners to give them faster internet speed.

Net neutrality is important because it keeps the internet free and open for all entrepreneurs. If you’re a programmer with an idea working out of your basement, the internet works just as well for you as it does for a multi-national company with billions of dollars at their disposal. Net neutrality allows people without broad networks of connections and a surplus of liquid assets to still get their ideas out to the public so they can hopefully become the next Evan Spiegel or Sergey Brin.

A company like ours helps entrepreneurs of all stripes incubate ideas, many of which are either online services or marketed online. When competing in this crowded space, net neutrality is essential in allowing us to take our projects to the next level. Because we have the same access to the internet that anybody else does, our ideas can sink or swim under their own strength, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We believe in all of the ideas we’re incubating here at SolutionsWide, and we think that if the public gets to see our content and experience our products, they’ll enjoy them.

The last time net neutrality was threatened was in 2014, when the FCC proposed rules that would have allowed for the creation of a two-tiered internet. Fortunately, these proposals unleashed a huge public outcry that prompted the FCC to not only reverse their proposal but to implement some of the strictest pro-net neutrality rules ever.

Unfortunately, with the election of Donald Trump, net neutrality is at risk once more.

We understand some of you reading this might be tempted to tune out now that the content has gotten political, but we humbly ask that you continue reading so you can hear our argument. During these divided and troublesome times, the most important thing we can all do for each other is to listen and think.

The idea that a Trump administration might pose a risk to net neutrality is not liberal scare-mongering or a worst case scenario. Trump has already chosen Jeffery Eisenach and Mark Jamison, two former lobbyists for the telecom industry who have been openly critical of net neutrality, to head his FCC transition team. While neither man necessarily has a lock on being named the head of the FCC, their appointment to the transition team has already inspired Randall Stephenson, the CEO of AT&T (a company currently suspected by the FCC of violating net neutrality rules), to predict his problems with net neutrality will not be an issue anymore. Ajit Pai, one of the Republicans in the FCC, said that net neutrality’s “days are numbered.”

Were net neutrality to be repealed, there would be nothing preventing telecom companies from creating two different lanes of the internet – a fast lane for their own products and content as well as partners with the means to pay up, and a slow lane for everybody else.

This means even if an entrepreneur creates an online software that functions better than something created by a bigger corporation, it could wither in the slow lane of the internet because the larger company paid to have their service delivered to consumers faster. This creates an uneven playing field that judges new products and content not on their quality, but on how deep the pockets are of the person funding them.

As a company that has been working in the startup sphere for years, we firmly believe reversing the rules of net neutrality will actively harm American innovation and consumer choice. While your support or opposition to the rest of Trump’s agenda is up to your own moral compass, we hope that as Americans who care about the best ideas rising to the top that we can agree that the internet should remain a free and open space that all entrepreneurs can take advantage of.

So what can you do about these disturbing developments? First of all, you can make your opinions on net neutrality known to your elected representatives. Although it often seems like the government is out of reach, every congressperson and elected official has an easily accessible e-mail account and office phone number. Reach out to them and let them know what you think.

Secondly, talk to people. And not just people who agree with you. Reach out to people you know who might not share your political views and let them know why you think this issue is important. Despite what the media may tell us, most people on the other side of the aisle are rational actors who want what’s best for the country. There are so many compelling arguments for net neutrality, both liberal and conservative, that you could possibly sway somebody who disagrees with you about other issues over to your side for this one.

When that conversation happens, don’t yell. Don’t accuse. Be sure to listen. Nobody ever got their mind changed by being scolded. Respect is a two-way street and these days we need to find common ground wherever we can.

After all, if Americans can’t agree that we should all have a fair shot at seeing the best ideas, what can we agree on?

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