New Net Neutrality Plans Could Set Back SMBs and Startups

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    Top Issues Affecting SMB Employees Today

    The U.S. is still awaiting the final decision of the Federal Communications Commission on how it plans to allow ISPs to charge companies more money to provide faster content delivery. After the commission announced its shift in favor of pricing tiers for content, the public responded negatively with 45,000 comments posted on the FCC’s website, followed by another 300,000 emails sent to its inbox. And those numbers are growing as viral social media campaigns and email promotions urge citizens to speak out against the lack of Internet neutrality.

    Of course, the people see any interference with Internet content delivery as breaking that “neutrality” that is so important for all types of websites. But what could be even worse is how “pay-to-play” content delivery would affect those small to midsize businesses that also rely on the web to provide ecommerce or just basic company information.

    As I’ve reported several times, SMBs are truly the backbone of the U.S. workforce. According to the Small Business Association (SBA), small businesses make up 99.7 percent of U.S. employers. The SBA Office of Advocacy also says that from 1993 until the middle of 2013, small businesses created 63 percent of the new jobs in the U.S. 

    So SMBs make up a huge percentage of the employers in the U.S., and yet, they wouldn’t be able to financially compete with large corporations in a “pay-to-play” Internet environment. Elle Patout, representative of the U.S. SBA’s Office of Advocacy, feels that the FCC will have to put new rules in place to protect small businesses:

    “The ability of small businesses providing services over the Internet to compete depends on non-discrimination by the ISPs carrying their traffic to customers. It is also important that any regulations adopted by the FCC preserve the ability of small ISPs to compete with their larger counterparts for customers.”

    Michael McGeary, a representative from the group Startups for Net Neutrality, believes that the FCC likely won’t be able to offer enough protection for small businesses with its current proposition. He proposes a more drastic change:

    “The Internet needs to be reclassified under Title II as a ‘common carrier’ (like telephone lines, roads, highways and trains). Only once the FCC has done that can it ensure a true open Internet and deliver the certainty startups need.”

    McGeary also fears that under the current plan, only those large corporations who pay premium price for their network usage will see updates and improvements through the years:

    “If ‘fast lanes’ are built and exist, and ISPs have to make decisions about which parts of their network to improve over time (and, conversely, which to let degrade), where are they most likely to make those improvements? In areas where they are paid a premium, or across the network on the whole?”

    This could be the case if ISPs are allowed to make their own decisions concerning network usage and tiered pricing. The FCC has given consumers until Friday, July 18, to submit comments and suggestions concerning the current net neutrality plans. As of Tuesday of this week, the site had been flooded with 780,000 comments from the general public. According to the New York Times, the FCC will consider a period for “reply comments” until September 10.

    Kim Mays has been editing and writing about IT since 1999. She currently tackles the topics of small to midsize business technology and introducing new tools for IT. Follow Kim on Google+ at or Twitter @blumoonky.

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