State proposal might restore Net Neutrality

State proposal might restore Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission dealt a huge blow to small businesses when they recently decided to eliminate Net Neutrality protections. These protections used to prevent Internet Service Providers like Verizon from giving preferential treatment to certain online content. Since ISPs control the pathways through which information travels, they can control how it is transmitted through those pathways. ISPs can manipulate what information customers have access to and how quickly they can access it, and they can do this selectively and at their discretion. Without Net Neutrality protections, ISPs like Verizon can exercise this power over small businesses.

Small businesses rely on the internet and ISPs for their business practices in several ways. They act as customers to ISPs to access credit card networks, administrative systems, and IT support. They also act as content creators by creating websites to provide information and sell their goods and services to their customers. Small businesses’ strong reliance on ISPs makes them vulnerable to practices that may become routine after the repeal of Net Neutrality protections.

One potential practice is to create a multi-tiered system of internet speeds. ISPs could charge businesses a fee to put their content in a “fast lane” where their website would load very quickly. Businesses who do not pay the fee would be put in a “slow lane.” Slowing down businesses’ websites makes them more difficult for potential customers to access. This practice would give an advantage to a large chain store that can afford to pay such a fee. Without Net Neutrality protections, ISPs may even have the authority to completely block some sites.

It is unclear how the repeal of Net Neutrality protections will affect businesses as customers of ISPs, but any attempt to slow down businesses’ access to the internet would hurt their ability to carry out their day to day business practices, such as processing credit card payments and accessing administrative systems.

Rhode Island, along with many other states, is considering its own measures to replace Net Neutrality protections. Rhode Island is joining almost two-dozen other states suing the FCC to restore Net Neutrality rules at the federal level. Rhode Island House bills H7422 and H7076 and Senate bill S2008 seek to restore these protections at the state level.

You can contact your Rhode Island legislators’ offices to support these bills and keep ISPs from hurting Rhode Island’s small businesses. To learn more, go to NetNeutralityRI.com .

Joseph Tudino

Scituate