Full transparency, I work for a SaaS company. I have an economics degree and a graduate marketing/management degree, and little understanding of software technology, engineering, and many other related and complex fields of study. But when a colleague, in this case Zenefits co-founder and CTO Laks Srini, sends you an email asking for help, you give that request the closest scrutiny and begin researching the topic: in this case “net neutrality.”
As most of us would admit, we’re simply users of the internet data highways. Much like our nation’s highways, we use them without being involved in the process that decides where the exit ramps are or how many lanes they are to have. Similarly, our data highways’ construction and control are left to the different entities that depend upon them. The government acts as a regulator to ensure fair use and equal access.
In December 2017, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the “OIO,” or Open Internet Order. This was a principal put in place that required all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) [such as Verizon, Comcast, and Cox] to treat all content requests equally without giving preference to where content is hosted. Without the OIO, ISPs can decide what you see and at what speed you see it. This has serious ramifications in that ISPs can show only what they prefer or can charge for. A decision like this can drive small companies out of business or prevent new startups from occurring. This will have a devastating effect on small business from a competitive view in that only large companies can afford to pay to have their content favored.
Smaller ISPs believe in net neutrality because they want to protect the internet and encourage competition among providers. Larger ISPs have so far resisted the urge to charge higher rates and drive out competition which would make it harder for small and startup companies to survive.
A number of strategies to reverse this decision are being developed. One approach is legislatively preparing a bill to endorse the previous net neutrality provisions at the Federal level. Another being instigated is opposition via various lawsuits aimed at restoring the OIO as it was previously. As I found out, the issue is one that requires a certain amount of research before a position can be laid out. Taking the tried-and-true approach of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might make the most sense. Our internet seemed to be working quite well for both consumers and small businesses before the repeal of the OIO.
Once we convince the FCC to reinstate the OIO, maybe we as users should encourage our employers, our ISP service vendors, and our Federal officials to leave things alone just this once.