Opinion

Ending Net Neutrality Could Mean the End for Some Small Businesses

We live in an impatient world, and that mentality combined with a disastrous regulatory mistake by the federal government could mean the end for many small businesses.

A Google poll found 53 percent of mobile device users will give up on a website that takes more than three seconds to load. Unfortunately, longer load times could become the norm for small firms like mine if the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to end net neutrality is not overturned, since many small businesses just don’t have the resources to ensure their websites have the fastest load times.

Countless small-business owners rely on access to an open and speedy internet to process orders, market products and contact customers. Without a fair and open internet, small firms will be put at a severe disadvantage when trying to compete with larger corporations that have the resources to ensure their websites receive special prioritization from internet service providers. As a result, small businesses and startups could lose business because their websites might load slowly, or their sites could be blocked entirely from reaching consumers.

I am the CEO of  Culture Coach International, which is a consulting firm specializing in diversity and cross cultural awareness, and a tech startup called the Diversity Dashboard, which is an online project management software firm for diversity professionals. Since my software is hosted online, the end of net neutrality could mean I have to purchase faster internet service just so my customers can access my products. If that becomes a necessity, I’ll have some difficult decisions to make: I’ll have to charge more or I’ll make less profit. If either happens, I may lose revenue and might have to scale back my business–including not hiring more staff. No small-business owner should ever be forced to make those kinds of choices purely because a small group of government officials recklessly ended good policy.

I’m not the only small-business owner who’s worried about this scenario. In fact, Small Business Majority’s scientific opinion polling found 56 percent of small-business owners oppose the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality, with nearly 4 in 10 strongly opposing the repeal. The poll also found almost half of all small businesses say net neutrality is important to the operation of their business.

What’s more, ending net neutrality could pull the plug on America’s entrepreneurial spirit. Who will want to start a business knowing that their startup costs are going to be even higher than before net neutrality was repealed? Getting business funding is already difficult enough, and adding more overhead isn’t going to make starting a company any easier.

While I’m glad the Senate recently voted to restore net neutrality, it’s obvious many lawmakers simply don’t understand the importance of those rules to small firms like mine. I wish I could make more elected officials realize the mistake they are making by letting the FCC’s decision stand.

Perhaps they will understand this: Maintaining an open internet through net neutrality guarantees an open internet for both entrepreneurs and consumers, which is good for business and our economy. Ending net neutrality, however, is like giving big businesses a Christmas bonus all year long because it will help them put their smaller competitors out of business. So instead of giving yet another handout to corporations that don’t need one, lawmakers must do something to look out for small businesses. They must restore net neutrality immediately.

Kari Heistad is the CEO of Culture Coach and the Diversity Dashboard in Newton, Mass. who is also part of Small Business Majority’s network of 58,000 business owners.

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