FLOWERS OF WAR: Net Neutrality and the Online Florist.

"Rage" Copyright- Banksy

Now we are a boutique florists, nestled away in a pretty part of London. We don’t really do politics. However, Net Neutrality is under serious threat. And this is very bad for business.

That’s why a little florists in East Molesey, is getting political, and why it matters to you

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality means that Internet Service Providers (or ISPs) are obliged to treat all content providers the same, providing them with the same service, regardless of their affiliations, or lack of, with the ISP.

Net Neutrality is under threat, because since an FCC ruling in 2002, ISPs can give preferential treatment to the content providers of their choosing. Comcast have already done it.

This situation was not the intention of the FCC, and is in fact, counter to their vision for the Internet. It was an unforeseen by-product of the ruling. The FCC are now trying to reverse their ruling.
Whether they will be successful is questionable: the big boys of telecommunications, such as Verizon and AT& T, got a teensy bit upset, about having their newfound freedoms and god-like powers taken away.

In short, the Battle for the Net, is ON.

What does it have to do with small business, such as online florists?

Getting rid of Net Neutrality means that ISPs will be able to provide preferential treatment, to those with the most cash. ISPs will be able to regulate your search results and direct your queries. But this regulation will be done in favour of whoever is paying the ISP to provide them with preferential treatment.

You will not be getting a clear picture, or an honest, neutral answer to your query then, but a sponsored result. Choice becomes an illusion. It’s a kind of ‘you can choose to do whatever we tell you to do’ situation.

“Small businesses are potentially at risk with the loss of net neutrality. Not having the deep pockets of the larger content providers, they may not be able to afford preferential treatment by the ISPs, potentially losing customers who have come to expect fast service.”

         Kassner, for techrepublic.com, January 14th 2014

In essence, saying goodbye to net neutrality may mean that businesses such as ours, may not be able to provide adequate service to you, the customer. Independent businesses may be unable to compete with larger, richer corporations and mutli-nationals. The service we will be able to provide for you, online, would be incredibly slow, and extremely frustrating. You will stop coming to us, in favour of a company with deep pockets, who can provide a faster online response. We will lose valued customers, and revenue. Many small businesses whose main income is from online sales, may be forced to close their doors. Eventually, this will mean less real choice for the consumer. It’s bad for our businesses. And bad for the consumer.

So, why won’t the FCC just reverse the decision?

Well, the Republicans don’t want them to, because it means less power for the big corporations, and less opportunity for them to monopolise and control what online content you have access to. They, and the corporations who favour the ruling, are putting massive pressure on the FCC not to reverse the ruling. If you were 2 years old, and someone gave you a huge packet of sweets, and then told you that you had to share them, what reaction would you have?

Image from www.parentdish.co.uk

Which businesses are fighting FOR the reversal to net neutrality?

This issue is so important to both business owners and the consumer, that 12 of the world’s largest internet sites have chosen to join the fight FOR Net Neutrality. These include Etsy, Kickstarter, Wordpress, Vimeo and Mozilla. And more will join.

Fight for the Future are an independent organisation leading the campaign for Net Neutrality. On September 10th, they organised a mass protest (of which the aforementioned companies took part).
These companies (and many others) pledged to run a ‘slowdown’ widget across their sites, designed to help you, the user, experience what the Internet will be like for you, if Net Neutrality is shattered forever by the big corporations and their Republican brothers.

Well the Internet Slowdown was a ‘resounding success’, according to FFTF, with more people taking action to defend net neutrality than ever before in history. More than 40,000 websites took part, and at its peak, the protest resulted in more than 1,000 calls to congress, per minute! To see the result of this monumental online protest, check out this infographic.

There are several ways that small business can take part in the campaign, that will not affect our profit margins. Click here for more information.

And just maybe we should be asking if, in the long term, we can afford not to participate?

We need YOU to help us.

As a business with a social conscience, whose main source of income is generated through online orders, and for whom, the majority of marketing, is done online, we of course, have to ask ourselves, if we should be joining the fight for net neutrality. So we thought we’d test the waters, and put it to a vote.

Do you think that we should take part?

Leave a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ in the comments box below please. Your extended views are welcome. 

We will issue the results on this blog, and our Facebook page, at the end of the month, and keep you updated on the progress of the fight for Net Neutrality. Subscribe to this blog for updates.

If you would like to find out more about the protest, and get involved, check out www.fightforthefuture.org

Written by: Kyra Hall-Gelly

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