By Jaimie Hamilton, CEO and Founder of New Orleans-based IntuitivDesigns.
After working as a graphic designer for large companies, I grew frustrated with the tools and systems we used, which kept prices high and made good design out of reach for too many people.
I knew there was a better way, so in 2014 I launched IntiuitivDesigns with the goal of making our services available to all. I did that by using web-based communication and management tools that make it efficient and easy for my clients.
This has only been possible because of net neutrality protections, which ensure seamless communication with clients and access to online tools so clients can get online quickly and without having to pay extra to each ISP.
Due to the FCC’s radical repeal of all net neutral protections, I’m deeply concerned that my business will soon no longer be sustainable. For that reason, I recently joined a teleconference call with staff from Senator John Kennedy’s DC office.
Over a dozen other Louisiana business owners spoke from the heart about our passion for businesses, and how we needed Senator Kennedy to step in to protect us. We asked him to become the critical 51st vote on the proposed Congressional Review Act that would keep the looming repeal from going into effect, and prevent this FCC from implementing similar rules in the future.
I was inspired hearing so many people on that phone call speak in unison about this crucial issue and all the more dismayed a few days later when I heard that Senator Kennedy had joined forces with Representative Marsha Blackburn to champion the Open Internet Preservation Act.
Oddly Senator Kennedy says he’s still open to signing onto the CRA, which he should be. Otherwise I believe the removal of net neutrality means ISPs will soon start “taxing” entrepreneurs, small business owners, and basically anyone who uses the Internet to do business.
Here’s how they’ll do it:
For example, every day I use Adobe Design Suite to mock-up websites and merchandise for clients. Currently this software is offered only as a subscription via the Cloud. If my connection to that service isn’t fast, I can’t do my job.
Net neutrality protections, which the FCC has enforced for decades, requires that my ISP let me use any program without interference. I pay them to connect me with the sites and services I want to use, and my ISP does its best to deliver the bits back and forth.
However, without these rules, an ISP can charge companies like Adobe simply so their service will work for that particular ISP customers and cut off that service if Adobe doesn’t pay up. My ISP could also create fast and slow lanes, and charge companies to get out the molasses.
This matters because eventually Adobe will have to have charge its customers, like my business, more money. Soon all my tools become more expensive because of this ISP tax. And all my customers, who also use online tools like Dropbox, Google Drive, and WordPress to power their websites and branding, will also face higher business costs.
This will ripple across the entire economy as ISPs figure out how to tax everyone, without offering better service for the price increase.
This isn’t hyperbole. When Verizon sued to overturn the FCC’s 2010 rules, Verizon told the court it was doing so because it wanted to create fast lanes and charge fees to access online services. The 2017 FCC order to repeal explicitly said that these kinds of new taxes are totally legitimate, and companies and businesses will be fine because the ISPs will have to disclose these kinds of practices.
But ISPs aren’t in competitive markets; 51 percent of Americans have only one company that provides broadband service to their homes; another 10 percent have none.
It is only a matter of time before ISPs abuse the fact they exist in a broken market and tax all the companies that compete in actual free markets.
Small businesses like mine are not asking for special privileges – we are fine paying our bills to be online. We’re just asking to be able to compete fairly.
Net neutrality isn’t even a partisan issue. 83% of Americans support net neutrality, including 73% of Republicans. But if Congress wants to turn it into a fight, we are committed to winning this battle, including making sure that come election time, we elect politicians that stand up for the real economy, not big-pocketed ISPs.