When we first started Dulse & Rugosa we designed a website that was clunky. We had no idea that photos were supposed to be sized so that it didn't take forever to load. One of the many things we learned over the years. When we would add products to the site we would walk away and make a cup of tea while the page s-l-o-w-l-y loaded. Needless to say we didn't get very many orders. If we couldn't stand waiting for our page to load there was no chance that our customers were going to wait around. It took us awhile to figure out our mistakes and re-do the site. We learned our lesson. If your website does not load in a few seconds customers will try somewhere else. Our first few years with our clunky website is the reason why I am so worried about the looming possibility of the elimination of net neutrality. We know first hand how hard it can be for a small business when your website is part of the slow lane.
As the large companies with a traditionally large workforce are mechanizing and employing fewer and fewer, we are seeing the growth and spread of small business in America. The last few years have seen more small businesses succeeding, growing, and expanding then ever before. It is because of the internet that this can happen. You do not need an expensive brick and mortar store front on Main Street in order to sell your wares. You can live in the middle of the woods, high on a mountain or in rural Maine and sell to people all across the world. This would not and could not be possible without free and fair access to the internet. As Blake Irving the CEO of GoDaddy put it, small business’ “depends on the equalizing force of the Internet to level the playing field, giving them access to equal opportunity to succeed, regardless of size or access to capital.”
There has been a lot of press surrounding this issue, but still not enough in my view. Many people still don’t understand what net neutrality means. Basically, net neutrality means that all websites and all content are treated equally. You can access the Dulse & Rugosa website at the same speed as Loreal, Dove, or Burt’s Bees or any of the plethora of skincare companies. If this ruling is overturned the internet will be turned into a two tier system. Those companies who can afford to pay the ISP’s (internet service providers; think Comcast, Time Warner…) will have content that will load quickly. Websites that can not pay will have slower access speeds. If your business or website relies on videos be prepared to pay a whole lot more for costumers to access your content. Basically, ISP’s will be able to “negotiate priority agreements with bigger companies; because of this there will be no incentive to supply or support smaller companies.” (Blake Irving again). If you love being able to support small business, learn about and explore a host of new smaller companies, then be prepared to make a cup of tea each time a website loads.
Trump, Spicer, and Ajit Pai (the head of the FCC) have repeatedly come out against net neutrality. To many the passing of Senate Joint Resolution 34 (the one where our browsing history can be sold to the highest bidder) was the first nail in the coffin for net neutrality. More and more we are seeing that if you have money, then all is well, but for those of us who don't have much to spare the future is looking bleak. The bright spot on the horizon is that small businesses are united for net neutrality. 1.1 million comments were submitted to the FCC about the issue, many of which were from small businesses. No small business commented in favor of the end of net neutrality. This issue unites us. Business owners from across the country wrote in. Democrats and republicans. Urban and Rural. Man and Women. Young and Old. We all said that without net neutrality our businesses will fail. Here is great example of one of the many FCC comments. This one from a small business owner from Santa Barbara, CA. “My small business depends entirely on Internet affordability. The Internet is seemingly the only place left in the world where people other than the already rich can participate in a meaningful way. Please don't allow a situation that will make it possible for mega-companies to have dominion over everyone else. The Internet is all about equality and fairness. Let's keep it that way.” The sweat, blood, and tears that we have invested; the customers we have nurtured, will not be able to access our products solely because we can’t/won’t pay the ISPs.
Please, please, please, I am begging you go to the FCC web-page (which loads just as fast as the Dulse & Rugosa page thanks to net neutrality) and leave a comment. Call your senators, your congressmen and tell them that you stand for net neutrality. Go to town hall meetings, make your voice heard. Net neutrality affects us all but it will disproportionately hurt small business owners. I’m sure you have a friend, a neighbor, a family member that runs a small business and relies on net neutrality to succeed. Speak out and save neutrality.