In 2016, Americans spent $3.45 billion on Cyber Monday. They’ll likely spend even more this year, as the online retail holiday has continued to grow since its inception. But internet retailers like Etsy, as well as Twitter, Reddit, and other online businesses, are warning that if the FCC moves forward with derailing net neutrality, big e-commerce could quickly become a thing of the past.
In a public letter shared in Google Docs Monday, businesses begged FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to maintain its current net neutrality rules. Pai’s recently proposed plan would gut net neutrality in the U.S., giving internet service providers the power to control what websites Americans get speedy access to, essentially on a pay-to-play basis. In other words., businesses will likely be forced to pay big internet service providers like Verizon a fee in order to guarantee that internet users who are Verizon customers will have access to their site. If they don’t pay, a business could run the risk of their site running really slowly for Verizon customers — or not running at all.
“Businesses may have to pay a toll just to reach customers,” the letter reads. “This would put small and medium-sized businesses at a disadvantage and prevent innovative new ones from even getting off the ground.
“An internet without net neutrality protections would be the opposite of the open market, with a few powerful cable and phone companies picking winners and losers instead of consumers.”
The letter argues that the open internet has paved the way for economic growth so far, and that changing this model could have disastrous results.
Because of the open internet, a web developer can launch a business out of their own apartment, an aspiring fashion designer in Wyoming can sell clothes in Los Angeles, or a caterer can find new customers in their town. Because of net neutrality, consumers and businesses have unfettered access to one another, increasing competition and consumer choice.
Pai’s plan for a more regulated internet could be approved by the FCC as soon as they meet on December 14. Many protests are planned across the country leading up to the commission’s vote.