Get All Access for $5/mo

The FCC's Looming Repeal of Net Neutrality Is an Assault on Entrepreneurship Net neutrality means, by law, your website and Amazon load at the same speed. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai calls that "heavy handed regulation.''

By Micha Kaufman Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Scott Olson | Getty Images

Starting an internet company is easy. An idea, some code, a whimsically spelled name, and you're there, right?

While that is a bit of an oversimplification, all of us owe a debt to the pioneers of the internet who created a global network of interconnected machines. It paved the way for information exchanges and innovations that have made overwhelming impacts on the way we go about our daily lives, making it possible for many well-known companies to find rapid success.

On December 14th, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on a measure to repeal the landmark net neutrality rule it passed just two years ago. This has major implications for the millions of little-known companies that rely on the internet to run their business. Don't think about Netflix and its struggles with "throttling" prior to the 2015 rule being enacted. Think about the impact of the FCC's potential actions on the 28 million small businesses that call the U.S. home.

The promise of the internet isn't about the companies that have been created. It's about fostering an environment where businesses that aren't flush with cash today, but have an idea and an entrepreneurial drive to grow that idea into something bigger, can compete and thrive.

Related: How Changes to Net Neutrality Laws Could Affect Small Businesses

What repealing net neutrality means for internet entrepreneurs.

To understand the impact of this upcoming decision, we need to start with the actual proposed plan and what it's replacing. That story begins in 2015 when President Obama took an earlier fight over net neutrality in a better direction for entrepreneurs. At his urging, the FCC approved a net neutrality rule to broadly regulate Comcast, AT&T and other internet service providers (ISP's) as a utility or "common carrier." That rule, which is what the FCC will vote to repeal, prevents ISPs from selling "fast lanes'' to the highest bidders and expressly bans throttling, blocking and paid prioritization.

The net neutrality rule guarantees speed of access is equal regardless if a prospective customer is visiting your ecommerce site or Amazon. The rule took how the internet has always worked and made it the law of the land, harkening back to the way Americans think about other utilities like water and sewer, landline phones, natural gas and electricity. You and the bigger business next door with more cash receive identical electric service.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's plan includes a substantial rollback of the regulations that impacted ISP's in 2015. Specifically, it would not hold ISPs to the same "common carrier" standard, allowing them to throttle access to certain content and media, and create multiple tiers of service. It would basically allow for the creation of slow and "fast lanes" on the internet for specific content.

Pai calls this "light touch" regulation and claims it will result in more competition that benefits the consumer. However, given the spotty broadband access in the US now, it's unlikely the free market will trigger price wars outside of urban areas. Consumers and businesses outside of major markets are likely to be exactly where they are today, without real alternatives when choosing their ISP.

Related: Here Are the Rules the Government Just Proposed to End Net Neutrality

This is important to every entrepreneur.

Simply put: access to fast, reliable broadband internet is synonymous with opportunity in today's economy. The bootstrapping entrepreneur hustling to build his or her business has too many challenges to overcome already. Adding how to afford "pay-to-play" access for reasonable bandwidth to the list is unfair and maybe fatal for many businesses. It actively limits innovation by raising the barriers to access the most powerful business resource around.

While ISPs might offer "reasonable access," that access won't hold a lot of promise for the average entrepreneur who already struggles to convert traffic to leads and eventually to sales. Imagine how much harder that's going to be when pages take forever to load. According to HubSpot, nearly 80 percent of customers who wait longer than three seconds for a company's webpage to load won't shop there again. A satisfactory time is roughly two seconds per page and by three seconds, most prospective customers are gone. That kind of margin doesn't leave a lot of room for growing businesses now, and it certainly won't improve under throttling or "slow lane" internet access.

Action you can take.

A poll of Americans this summer found that 77 percent of those surveyed support the current net neutrality protections, including 73 percent of Republicans (Mr. Pai, a Republican and formerly an attorney for Verizon, cast the lone vote against the 2015 net neutrality rule. He was named FCC chairman by President Trump). Since April, more than half a million calls have been placed to Congress on this issue alone through Battle for the Net's call to action.

While there have been serious concerns about the legitimacy of the FCC's comment period, the vote is slated to take place on December 14th but there are ways you can engage on the issue:

Related: How Companies Are Marking the Battle for the Net Protest

In-person event: December 14 Protest Outside FCC HQ in DC

Digital petitions and campaigns:

Micha Kaufman

CEO of Fiverr

Micha Kaufman is chief executive officer and co-founder of Fiverr, launched in 2010. He is the visionary behind Fiverr's product and platform strategy, leading the company in its global mission to democratize lean entrepreneurship. Since its launch, Fiverr has became a leader in its multibillion dollar industry, enabling freelancers and entrepreneurs to start doing, growing and succeeding. Kaufman is also a partner at a venture capital firm and private investor in a number of disruptive consumer Internet companies. As a recognized voice in the areas of entrepreneurship, the future of work and the gig economy, Kaufman frequently shares his views through the Fiverr blogMedium and various media outlets.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business News

How to Be a Billionaire By 25, According to a College Dropout Turned CEO Worth $1.6 Billion

Austin Russell became the world's youngest self-made billionaire in 2020 at age 25.

Marketing

SEO Trends You Need to Be Aware of Right Now, According to a Seasoned Pro

Navigate the future of search engine optimization to elevate your online presence and drive meaningful engagement.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Living

Taylor Swift Has a Lucky Number. And She's Not the Only High Performer Who Leans Into Superstitions to Boost Confidence.

Even megastars like Swift need a little extra something to get them in the right mindset when it is game time.