Net Neutrality No Longer A Reality

Several small business owners in the Fargo area came together to combat the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) stance on net neutrality April 23.

The owners included Nick Horob, founder of Harvest Profit, a farm management software company, Clint Howitz, owner of dogIDs, a pet product manufacturer, Brandon Medenwald, founder of Simply Made Apps, Tim Hoye, who is running for North Dakota District 45 House representative, and District 44 Rep. Karla Rose Hanson.

Medenwald opened with a statement that expressed not only the group’s stance, but also why they stand for the actions they want to see taken. He stated that since the repeal of net neutrality, which officially went into effect that same day, they would continue to stand for open internet without censorship.

The underlying message was that the best companies with the best products should be determined by the best ideas, not the internet provider of the company, according to Medenwald, citing AT&T services offered in Mexico that restrict popular apps like Instagram and Uber to those who don’t or can’t pay a higher rate for service. Mendenwald said that although the changes from this order may not be obvious today or within the week, the effects will become obvious within the next few years.

As a result of this ruling, the group of small business owners and prospective or current representatives are pushing for Gov. Doug Burgum to issue an executive order to keep net neutrality a reality in North Dakota, similar to the ones issued in Montana, New York, New Jersey and Vermont.

Horob stated that his business is dependent on the internet being free and open, as he does business in 26 states — thanks to the internet. According to Horob, this threat to net neutrality is a threat to his business. Howitzer agreed, noting that his company is dependent on “organic product discovery,” and that his small business and businesses like his won’t stand a chance against multimillion dollar companies. Entrepreneurs in general now face challenges when competing with existing and high profile companies. Hoye and Hanson also openly opposed the ruling and urged action by the public and by Burgum.

On a national level, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., gave her opinion on the FCC’s official repeal of net neutrality laws April 23. “Open use of the internet is essential for education, small business development and even health care, especially for folks in rural America,” Heitkamp said.

Heitkamp has been a proponent of free and open access to broadband services, especially in rural areas. She is a founding member of the U.S. Senate Broadband Caucus and has even brought FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to look at broadband issues in North Dakota. “Rural North Dakota consumers and small businesses lose out if internet service providers are allowed to block, throttle or prioritize certain content,” Heitkamp said.

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., introduced a bill to counter the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality laws. This Congressional Review Act is in need of one more vote to gain a majority in the Senate.

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