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Why all businesses should care about Net neutrality

Paul Venezia | July 23, 2014
If you think your company has nothing to fear from 'slow lane' Internet, think again.

While there's been a massive outpouring of comments on the FCC's noxious Internet "fast lane" proposal, they've generally come from either private individuals or technology businesses with a stake in the other end of the line, such as Google and Apple. We haven't seen much in the way of comments from nontech businesses. I find that somewhat surprising.

Many business people understand the loss of Net neutrality will affect them on a personal level, in that their already overpriced home Internet connection will suffer from reduced service and ever higher prices. However, they don't necessarily see how the loss of Net neutrality or the implementation of a "slow lane" Internet would affect their businesses. After all, they're paying for business-class Internet service that would likely be unaffected, and their business is building and shipping widgets, not serving data to customers across the Internet.

But the loss of a neutral Net will definitely impact nearly every type of business. For example, say your business has infrastructure requirements for remote workers. Those workers will likely be using consumer-grade Internet connections and firing up VPNs to connect back to the main office. Those who currently support these infrastructures can tell you it's already difficult to deal with remote user complaints about speeds, because those users have highly asymmetrical home connections and it takes an hour to upload a big file from their laptop to a corporate server. If we layer on the notion of ISPs being allowed to constrain traffic at a whim without any repercussions, those complaints will get worse.

Under the current proposal, in order for a business to guarantee reasonable access to its VPN subsystem by remote users, it would either have to pay for business-class circuits at each user location or pay every ISP involved in order to have its traffic prioritized. This would be true not only for full-time remote employees, but also for contractors who need remote access and even casual remote users who log in only occasionally.

In a non-neutral network, these users' connections would fall into the lowest tier, potentially low enough on the priority list to make them unusable. Apparently that would be fine with the FCC.

That's one example of how a non-neutral Net would harm businesses of any type, not merely high-tech companies. No matter how you slice it, if we let the big ISPs go without strong open Internet regulations, we will be further subsidizing their business, limiting competition and innovation across all sectors, and reducing our ability to compete with the rest of the world. Europe has strong Net neutrality regulations for good reason, and we are foolish not to follow.


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