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Columns

How the 'Save the Internet Act' Makes the American Dream an American Nightmare for Small Businesses

March 27, 2019 - 7:15am

Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs. Although they are well known today, they all started on the same level playing field. They were all small business owners striving to succeed. During the creation of their respective companies, the Internet was wide-open, enabling their creativity and innovations, and allowing them to embody and exemplify the “American Dream.” Be innovative, work hard, get others to believe in you, and you can achieve great success. Fast forward to today and the Save the Internet Act being pushed by Democrats is threatening that same American Dream.

The Save the Internet Act takes a heavy-handed approach to enforcing net neutrality that will hinder the investment and innovation that made the Internet successful in the first place. Worse still, Democrats are planning to enforce these rules using regulations from the 1930s designed for switchboard telephones, not today’s Internet networks. With today’s ever-changing Internet landscape, it’s clear we need basic Internet guidelines, but the Save the Internet Act looks to the past when we need to be looking to the future. 

We need clear, common rules across the Internet that apply to everyone. Applying some rules to Internet service providers and others to Internet companies (Facebook, Google, etc.) creates serious confusion, especially for small providers. Needlessly adding layers of unclear regulation does little to protect the open Internet, but it does discourage entrepreneurship and innovation from the very companies working to serve customers, often in rural and hard to reach areas.

Unfortunately, that’s not the only negative impact the Save the Internet Act would have on small businesses.

The 2015 net neutrality rules that the Democrats are trying to bring back allowed the government to set prices, determine what services could be offered and how they could be bundled, and direct where investments should be made -- this uncertainty led to a decline in investment and delayed the deployment of rural broadband networks. This uncertainty also put a strain on our small businesses. Small businesses need an affordable, reliable network they can trust; the government getting in the way of that is a risk we can’t take. However, following the repeal of the Obama rules, U.S. broadband companies invested almost $2 billion in their networks. Increased investment has brought broadband to new locations and enabled "Main Street" to compete in additional markets they previously did not have access to.

Congress should reject the Save the Internet Act and should draft bipartisan legislation in order to provide a fair and equally accessible Internet ecosystem. Reinstating President Obama’s net neutrality rules does not protect consumers or protect the future of the Internet, and our small businesses can’t afford it.

Julio Fuentes is president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Comments

Too often local newspapers fall prey to industry sock puppets, people who submit Op-Eds for publication that were ghostwritten by special corporate interests. This practice has become all too common to the Net Neutrality debate, where AT&T, Comcast, NCTA and Verizon money has unleashed an army of shills, ready to spread misinformation about open-internet protections at the drop of a dime. This is just the latest example: an Op-Ed written by Julio Fuentes of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which reads like a memo from the phone and cable lobby, which is probably how it originated. As usual, the author (and newspaper) fail to disclose his conflicts of interest — information that is at the easy end of a Google search. Lo and behold, the HCofC receives funding from the phone and cable lobby, which explains much of the misinformation in this piece. No, Net Neutrality rules have not depressed investment in deployment and innovation. In fact, the opposite is true: CapEx spending by broadband companies was up during the two years (2015-2017) Net Neutrality rules were in effect. Try again, Mr. Fuentes. And next time disclose the monied interests that put you up to this.

Ouch! I just hate it when someone blows their credibility in the first paragraph. When Gates and Jobs started their businesses, there was no internet. If you can't get the beginning right, I don't trust a word you've said. Didn't even read past the 1st paragraph. If you can't do the basic research, you're not worth reading.

More Republican hogwash!

This is nothing more than an outright lie. What the Net Neutrality rules did was to preserve an open and accessible internet experience. What providers are trying to do with these rules is what they do with everything, try to squeeze more and more money out of consumers by charging per use, throttling, and regulating the experience. This is their way of trying to maintain a stranglehold on the internet, phone, cable and broadband experience by charging you for your metered use of a free, open, internet experience by regulating how you receive it. The Chamber is on the business side of this argument. They are supporting the cash cow for businesses and providers. Investment in the internet is just fine, every major provider is spending billions in the push for 5g. They are going to do everything in their power to make sure they can recoup that investment hundreds of times over on the backs of the American consumer. Net Neutrality protects us from them and their constant quest for more money.

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