Independence Day celebrates one the founding fathers declared independence from England in 1776. It was a daring and dangerous decision, but one that ultimately led to the fall of world colonization.
The 1800s – Railroads Expand Independence
The next century brought two major innovations that sparked independence. Obviously, the Civil War and the 14th amendment granted independence and citizenry to millions of slaves.
The other major innovation of the 19th century was the railroads. For the first time we could traverse the country in relative safety, and at great speed comparatively. This innovation was perhaps the commencement of the industrial age that cemented the United States as a world power.
The 1900s – Automobiles and the Interstate Highway System Create Opportunities for Small Business
The following century, actually 60 years ago yesterday, June 30, 1956 the interstate highway system was signed into legislation under Dwight Eisenhower. While automobiles and paved roads were important, the interstate system was critical to commerce. Suddenly the entire nation and beyond were united and no longer limited by the railroads.
For small business, it was an incredibly exciting time. Suddenly your goods and services could travel substantially further and you were able to complete alongside the corporate giants. We became more unified as a nation.
Today – The Internet Creates a Global Economy, but it’s Under Threat
Today there is another major innovation, and as you may have figured, we are using it right this minute. The Internet has taken the concept of the interstate highway system, and created a system of transferring information globally at the speed of light.
Instantaneous access comes with its own level of daring and danger. Much of the Internet is filled with helpful information and much of today’s commerce depends on the Internet as its backbone. With that said, there’s also an abundance of dangerous information and misinformation available at our fingertips.
Net Neutrality Is Critical to Small Business
Let’s imagine for a moment that your small business existed in the early 1900s. You would grow or make your products and transport them to a few neighboring towns. Unfortunately, large corporations controlled your access to the rest of the nation. Without a huge investment, you were very limited as to the distance you could transport your goods because of the expense of rail travel. It was a hurdle that very few companies could afford to leap.
That all changed when you could transport your wares much further with far less investment. It also created trucking companies and parcel delivery services, that let business owners stretch their wings even further.
The Internet has now given us the ability to do commerce on a global scale, regardless of your business size.
Opponents of Net Neutrality
That, however is in danger. Many large corporations control access to the Internet. These Internet service providers such as Verizon and Comcast would like to be able to put virtual tollbooths in place that would slow or restrict traffic. This would mean that only the largest corporations could afford unbridled access to the Internet for commerce.
Furthermore, much of the content produced for the Internet is being developed by a handful of large corporations that have a history of preventing small business from approaching their markets.
For decades television was limited to four companies. The film industry is dominated by the Motion Picture Association of America, a trade association that only has six members, the six major movie studios. Delivery is limited to a handful of telecommunications companies. Access to news and radio broadcasting is also very dominated by a handful of players.
Furthermore, many of these companies have been consolidated into multimedia giants. Comcast owns NBC. Disney owns ABC. News Corporation owns Fox television and films.
With all this collusion, if Internet service providers are permitted to play favorites, it could be the end of the micro business in America.
Keep Net Neutrality Safe – Here’s How
Recently the FCC changed the rules, reclassifying the Internet as a utility, which restricts the ability of Internet providers to play favorites. The interstate highway system and the rail transit system are two examples of public utilities that are regulated very similarly.
Corporations have invested billions into lobbying our legislature. Because of this there is a movement in Congress to put an end to net neutrality.
Individually, we need to make it clear that the Internet is our single greatest tool for maintaining independence and strengthening the global economy. Small businesses are critically important, not only to innovation and competition, but also to our elected officials. While we can’t compete with billions of dollars, small companies like Mediastead and our clients can compete with the collective voice.
If your business is less than $10 billion annually, you owe it to yourself to make sure that net neutrality remains intact. The only way to do this is to make sure that Senators and Congressional representatives hear from individuals and small business owners. Make sure they recognize that, while getting reelected requires campaign funds, no amount of money is going to permit voters from casting ballots against their best interest.
One of the leaders is the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, a nonprofit that is focused on creating fairness and equality across the Internet. There are the champions of net neutrality, and are also actively involved fighting patent squatting, intellectual property and copyright enforcement, and opening the Internet in an affordable way to a larger portion of the world. I encourage you to visit their website and specifically joined their campaign to ensure Net Neutrality is maintained permanently. It’s also a great source of information about many of the other Internet and technology related issues facing small business.
Mediastead is proud to be on the forefront of Internet and technology commerce. We are also proud to represent small businesses online and in our communities.
Happy Independence Day,
Senior Partners, Michael Rapino and Jason Tweed