Net neutrality: what is it, and why is it important?

On December 14, the five commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission (the FCC), the U.S. authority in charge of regulating the telecommunications industry, are scheduled to vote on removing the regulations that uphold net neutrality. Keeping these regulations in place is vital to the health of the Internet and small businesses in the United States.

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the concept that all traffic on the Internet should be treated neutrally, or equally. That is, an Internet service provider (ISP) should not discriminate between traffic to and from particular websites. For example, an ISP cannot favor traffic to Bing more than that to Google. This has been the status quo on the Internet for the past 30 years.

Net neutrality is not the Internet version of the FCC’s old Fairness Doctrine. The “neutrality” in the name “net neutrality” does not mean that content on the Internet must adhere to editorial standards of neutrality. Likewise, net neutrality regulations only apply to ISPs; there is nothing stopping a private business or family from enacting filters to censor content they do not want users of their computer systems to access.

Why is net neutrality important to small businesses?

Without net neutrality regulations, companies would, in effect, be able to bribe ISPs to favor their websites over that of their competitors. If a company didn’t pay up and their competitor did, the company that didn’t pay could be slowed down or even blocked by the ISP.

The impact of a lack of net neutrality regulations is especially dramatic for small businesses. Denexa Games, for instance, is such a small business that the whole enterprise and all its assets can fit within an 11-foot cube. (Possibly smaller, depending on how close the President and Vice President are standing.) One of our competitors is owned by a large conglomerate which also owns zinc mines and makes mason jars and space heaters.

Obviously, that conglomerate would have far more resources to spend on “marketing efforts” to cause ISPs to favor their traffic. For a small business like Denexa, who makes the vast majority of our sales through our ecommerce website, the need for net neutrality regulations is obvious. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to compete.

What can I do?

If you agree with us that net neutrality regulations are worth keeping, it’s not too late to act. The proposed repeal of the regulations is currently within a public comment period. Contact the FCC by leaving a comment on Docket 17-108 in favor of net neutrality protections.

You can also contact your legislators to voice your concerns. Below is the contact information for the Congressional representatives for our part of Oklahoma; if you live outside our area you can find information on how to contact your representative at the websites of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

  • Sen. Jim Inhofe: (405) 608-4381
  • Sen. James Lankford: (405) 231-4941
  • Rep. Tom Cole (Cleveland County and south): (405) 329-6500
  • Rep. Steve Russell (Oklahoma County): (202) 225-2132

One response to “Net neutrality: what is it, and why is it important?”

  1. Anjali says:

    Please leave the internet so that everyone has an equal share and access because we do not need a hierarchy in every aspect of our lives. This is important especially in our area where there is no universal cable or internet available for students, parents, jobs and seniors.

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