Does Net Neutrality Matter to Your Business or Organization?

As an owner or employee of a small-to-midsized business, or as a manger of a non-profit organization, do you think the FCC’s proposed new rules to change Net Neutrality will affect you? Given our critical dependence on the Internet, we believe there is a strong likelihood that they will, and with large costs.

Net Neutrality is “the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.” As business consultants, Cratin Computing is concerned that restraints on Net Neutrality will give an unfair advantage to larger companies and will hurt many of our customers. (See the end of this article for ways to express your concern to the FCC and Congress.)

In the current recommendations, FCC Chair Thomas Wheeler proposes fast and slow lanes for the Internet. Broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon will be permitted to charge higher prices to companies like Netflix, Google, YouTube, and others for access to higher speed delivery to end-users.

So what might these changes mean for businesses? They could open the door to a completely different access model that would affect all of us: by offering higher-cost, faster lanes to other large corporations, smaller businesses that can’t afford those prices will be squeezed out and many non-profits will be limited in the way they offer services. We’ll have a two-tiered system that favors large companies and corporations, stifling innovation and competition. This seems unacceptable on an Internet system that was built with taxpayer dollars.

Here are some ways in which the proposed rulings may affect your bottom line as well as they way you do business or offer services:

  • Higher Costs = Reduced Profits for You:
    Larger companies, who will be charged higher fees for high-speed lane delivery, will pass those costs to consumers. Now, as a business or organization, you may not be concerned with Netflix user costs. But plenty of other companies, whose B2B services you do use, e.g., employee healthcare, cloud computing, banking, accounting, etc., may have to increase fees to cover their own higher access costs.

    Alternately, larger companies will demand discounts from the ISPs, who will compensate by imposing higher fees on the rest of us for even the most basic Internet access.

  • Slower Internet Access = Inability to Compete or Function: It’s 2014 and no one needs slower Internet delivery. If you can’t afford fees for the faster lane, you might deliver products and services to your customers and users more slowly and you’ll risk losing them to a competing larger company.

    There’s nothing wrong with competition and its associated costs, but the new rules will clearly tilt the advantage to large companies. Broadband providers will have no incentive to keep those fees small and affordable to smaller companies and organizations.

  • Slower Internet Access Will Stifle Innovation: High fees and slower access will limit the ability for smaller companies and start-ups to create new products and services, most of which rely on access to high-speed technology. Also, non-profits are finding new cost-saving ways to deliver services via the web and rely on low-cost access. App implementation, security technology tools, new software platforms, cloud integration improvements, new social media companies, online retail: these are just a few examples of technologies and companies that drive innovation and growth, but often require low-cost access to develop.

    America needs more small-midsized companies to develop products, not fewer. If only large companies can afford to innovate, our growth and economy will grind to a halt. The FCC’s proposed rules could prevent the next Skype or Instagram or critical security product.

  • Slower Internet Access Will Limit Cloud Computing Capability: This would be a massive step backwards for many companies. Just when a growing number of organizations are finding new cost-saving and productivity-improving benefits of cloud computing, these new rules will inevitably raise costs. They will also limit speed, which will make the move to the cloud prohibitive for some business functions, causing more time and cost for smaller businesses to redesign their own processes.

The above predictions are just some of the ways we believe the FCC’s proposal will affect us, but they are enough to propel us to express our views. The FCC is soliciting public opinion and is collecting public comments on their website (see Congress contact info below FCC directions). Here’s how you can participate:

  • A list of open proceedings is available on fcc.gov/comments.
  • The net neutrality rulemaking is Proceeding No. 14-28 and is known as "Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet."
  • Click "14-28" and it will bring you to the FCC's electronic filing system.
  • Type in your name, address, comment, and hit continue. Note that submitted comments will be part of the public record and available online.
  • That form supports comments of up to several paragraphs. If you have more to say, and want to include attachments, navigate to the "Submit a Filing" page, which supports more lengthy comments. Just make sure you include the 14-28 proceeding number. If your comments are more than 10 pages, the FCC recommends that you include a short summary up front.
  • If you prefer to submit via mail or in person, you can mail your comments to FCC Secretary Marlene H. Dortch at 445 12th Street, SW Room TW-B204, Washington, DC 20554. Or, you can hand deliver them to 236 Massachusetts Ave., NE, Suite 110, Washington, DC 20002 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. ET.

The deadline for the first round of comments is July 15. A second round of reply comments, where you can address some of the issues people brought up in the first round, will run until Sept. 10.

Net Neutrality supporters also encourage those concerned to contact their Senators and Representatives in Washington. Here are two ways:

  1. Go to this page at FreePress.Org, one of the Net Neutrality supporter groups: http://act.freepress.net/call/internet_congress_nn/?source=FPblog
  2. Go directly to the US Government website/ Both of these pages will assist you in finding your Senator and/or Rep:

    For the House of Representatives: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

    For the Senate: http://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_contact_senators.htm