This Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on a plan from Chairman Ajit Pai to eliminate the existing net neutrality protections that have helped level the playing field for small and new startups across the country.
Pai’s proposal will rescind bans on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization, a change that will place all Internet users at the mercy of the handful of major Internet service providers (ISPs) that control virtually all online traffic. This dramatic shift will increase uncertainty for companies doing business on the Internet by undoing key regulations on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. Startups have been able to grow and innovate under brightline rules that provide clear rules of the road. If Chairman Pai is successful, startups will have to worry about increased operating costs, competing against incumbents with entrenched ties to cable companies, and a decline in investor interest.
Thousands of startups from across the country have made their opposition to this plan known, including in a letter to Pai earlier this year. This map highlights the location of the startups that signed onto that letter, and it shows just how widespread the opposition to Pai’s plan to roll back the current net neutrality protections is.
And now startups are speaking out about how the net neutrality rules have helped their businesses. Here’s what they’re saying:
“Without an open Internet, there would be no Shapeways. When Shapeways was founded in 2008, very few people had heard of 3D printing, and almost no one thought that there would be enough interest in an online platform that could bring it to everyone. Fortunately, we didn’t need permission from Internet service providers to launch Shapeways. We built the platform, connected it to the Internet, and let it grow as people discovered the amazing opportunities that 3D printing provides. Shapeways has faced more than a few challenges during our nine years in operation. We’ve been able to overcome them because we knew that as long as we provided a great service, people would be able to find us. We knew that people could find us because we were connected to an open internet.” -Michael Weinberg, New York, New York
“My company, CrowdMed harnesses the wisdom of crowds to solve difficult medical cases online, which literally saves lives. Without net neutrality protections, big competitors like WebMD could pay Internet service providers (ISPs) to speed up their content and slow ours.” - Jared Heyman, Scottsdale, AZ
“Mapbox has grown from a tiny band of people making open source maps in a garage — yes, an actual garage — to a much larger company that's making real headway against established players in the mapping and location industry. We would never have gotten where we are if having fast, performant maps required handing million-dollar protection payments to the ISPs. Even though we now have more resources, the threat of a tilted playing field still looms. Many of our biggest competitors are now owned by ISPs, forming partnerships with them, or even getting into the consumer broadband business themselves. Today we know that we will still be able to compete in the market on the basis of our product's quality rather than whether we're connected to the network provider handling traffic. But Chairman Pai's proposed rollback of net neutrality protections could change that.” - Tom Lee, Washington, DC
“Anime Herald began in 2010 simply as a dream. At the time, I was working full-time while going to college for a computer science degree. With $25 and free open-source software, I was able to launch the organization on a shared server. Since then, we've been able to grow, even in the face of established players like Anime News Network and Crunchyroll, to become a go-to for countless anime fans across the web. We now serve an audience of nearly a quarter million people per month, and continue to grow. Without net neutrality rules in place, we would have been unable to grow beyond our initial small phases. The organization would have died in the cradle, crushed by those with more cash and more overall resources to stonewall us from being able to reach a real audience.” - Mike Ferreira, Providence, RI
“As a networking company and a web hosting provider, Xinsto provides our customers with a top notch service at a fair price. If the Internet ceases to be open, our competitors, who are larger than us, could easily pay to put their customers' sites in the fast lane. Businesses like ours will be forced to raise prices to new heights, which would result in our customers leaving to work with the competition. They'll get larger and we'll fall off the map. The open Internet helps business like ours grow and maintain healthy competition.” - Travis Newton, Williamsburg, VA