If you’re not familiar with net neutrality, read up on Wikipedia.
I wrote before about the defeat of Senate bill HR5252, which would have dealt a major blow to network neutrality and changed the internet as we know it. There is still an uphill battle to be fought, however things are looking rosier. The November elections ousted many of the congressmen and women that were against net neutrality, a bipartisan neutrality bill has been introduced, and Ed Markey, chairman of the senate subcommittee that oversees telecommunication, has promised to keep the net neutrality ball rolling.
So why does this matter for entrepreneurs?
If the internet becomes a privileged medium, accessible only to those with deep pockets, then the traditional and unique equal footing that has been the hallmark of the internet will be lost. New companies will find it much harder to break in and thrive, reminding me of more traditional media outlets that are dominated by a few players, with high barriers to entry (see television, radio, publishing). Many of today’s most successful Internet companies (Amazon.com, eBay) began as small independent start-ups that thrived because of the Internet’s inherent freedom. Without that freedom, America’s small businesses will suffer.
Startups are small, cash strapped entities trying to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and wrest a market segment away from the big boys. Often those big boys have names like “Google”, “Yahoo”, “Facebook”, and “MySpace”. On a non-neutral internet, these big boys would have plenty of cash to play by the telco’s new rules, and ensure that their content continues to get served up at top speed to the web surfing public.
Your startup already has enough trouble hiring developers, creating buzz, drawing users, paying lawyers, and putting food on the table. Now not only do you have to do those things, you need to match Google and Yahoo’s tithe to the telcos to ensure that people can even access your site. And I hope you can pay for the same level of access they can afford, because we know web surfers aren’t going to wait more than 5 seconds for the next great thing, when the same comfortable thing loads instantly.
As the world’s last truly free and equal communication medium, the internet must remain neutral. I’d encourage all entrepreneurs (not just American, it’s not called the world wide web for nothing) to contact your political representatives and encourage them to vote for network neutrality.