Propaganda machines are running full-blast ahead of next week’s landmark vote on net neutrality, so readers should take most “news” about the FCC with a grain of salt. That said, it’s worth noting a new letter in the debate over whether net neutrality will protect entrepreneurs (as supporters claim) or if it will instead damn small business to crushing regulations, as Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai, backed by the telecom industry, is warning.
The letter comes via the advocacy group Engine, and is signed by more than 100 startups and emerging businesses. Many of the names are unfamiliar but some — including Yelp, Etsy, Kickstarter, Tumblr and GitHub – are among America’s favorite new companies.
Their position, in short, is that the FCC’s proposed “Title II” rules, which would forbid ISPs from giving special treatment to some websites over others, is not the regulatory bugbear of Pai’s imagination:
“Any claim that a net neutrality plan based in Title II would somehow burden “small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs with heavy-handed regulations that will push them out of the market” is simply not true,” the letter said. It added, “The threat of ISPs abusing their gatekeeper power to impose tolls and discriminate against competitive companies is the real threat to our future.”
This, of course, is part of a public relations effort but it doesn’t change the fact that all these companies, which are run by sophisticated and successful entrepreneurs, put their names on it.
The entrepreneurs could be lying or maybe they’re deluded. The better bet, though, is that the they genuinely favor rules to prevent the likes of Comcast or Verizon using their power over pipes as a cudgel to demand money or favors.
So are there any bonafide entrepreneurs (as opposed to Pai and the telecom giants) concerned about the regulatory burden of Title II? Well, there’s at least one.
On Wednesday, Dallas Mavericks owner and startup booster Mark Cuban was at it again, railing at a Re/code conference how the FCC will “fuck up everything” with its new rules. (He’s made such rants before).
Normally, it’s worth paying attention to Cuban since he’s bang-on about other issues involving small business, especially patent reform, and has a lot of pull in investment circles.
On this one, though, his concern may be overblown since the FCC has been clear that it’s taking a light touch to Title II and will be using it to prevent internet throttling, while also staying clear of measures like rate regulation or forced access. (One also wonders if Cuban’s F-bombs have anything to do with the fact that he is the chairman of a cable network).
So there you have it. You entrepreneurs out there can join Etsy and all, and run the risk of FCC regulations, or throw your lot in with Cuban and put yourselves at the mercy of the big ISPs.
Here’s the Engine letter, which is short, and has all the companies’ names: