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.