Before the invention of the internet, we had a very different concept of sharing and communicating information. The internet’s open architecture gave consumers the ability to determine what information spread and provided anyone with a good idea a platform where they could compete in the U.S. market. Consumers and entrepreneurs alike are now able to connect, develop new ideas and even disrupt industries because net neutrality — the idea that the internet should be a free market and open to all — has been in effect in the United States since the beginning. Successful companies like Airbnb, Amazon, Etsy, Facebook, Google, Mozilla, Netflix, OK Cupid, Reddit and Spotify that got started as a result of the openness believe net neutrality rules are critical for continued economic opportunity and innovation.
YPO member Kristen Grimm, founder and president of Spitfire Strategies, one of the country’s leading public relations firms dedicated to working exclusively with nonprofits and foundations to create positive social change, shares insights on the role of net neutrality in the U.S. economy. For more than a decade, she has worked on free and open internet issues ranging from protecting Americans’ online privacy rights to devising winning campaigns at the state and federal level on net neutrality.
Here are five things to consider about net neutrality as they relate to the implications of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposed rollback of protections:
Net neutrality keeps the internet a free market.
Net neutrality protects the internet as a free market where consumers’ choices determine which things spread and become popular. “It means internet providers have to treat all data equally,” says Grimm. “They’re not allowed to discriminate or give preferential treatment.”
It operates under the principle of Title II.
In February 2015, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality with Title II classification, which prohibited broadband companies from blocking websites, slowing connection speeds and charging for faster delivery of content. All data whether from a lean startup, a large corporation or an individual blogger has to be treated equally. “Title II preserves that the internet has a level playing field and people get to share and access information of their choosing,” says Grimm. “There is no picking of winners and losers by people that are gatekeepers like big cable companies.”
Net neutrality is important for business.
Small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs all rely on the open internet to launch their businesses, create markets, advertise products and services, and reach customers. Net neutrality lowers the barriers of entry by preserving a fair and level playing field. That in turn fosters job growth, competition and innovation for the whole U.S. economy. “If you’re a small company and trying to launch your business online, you don’t want an internet service provider deciding whether or not you actually get access to the clients you want or that your clients get access to you,” says Grimm. “
The internet is a successful medium for driving innovation and competition.
Net neutrality is an important factor that makes it possible for entrepreneurs, regardless of financial backing, to have equal access to this powerful engine of economic opportunity and for consumers to have access to all possible content and therefore determine their own preferences. There are no fast lanes for companies who can pay extra fees for preferential treatment or slower lanes with less access to consumers for startups and smaller businesses. “Innovation is about everybody getting a fair shot, an equal start and then some doing better than others,” says Grimm.
It’s an everyday issue.
The internet has become essential to every aspect of our daily lives as consumers, entrepreneurs and innovators. It is a place to express opinions, get an education and obtain everyday necessities of life. “It is important whether you are getting educated or you’re a business and just getting started to make sure that the internet is open to all and that everybody can do what they want on it and nobody is controlling that for you.”