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The Plain English Attorney

As some of you may know, Net Neutrality is a big issue for small and start-up businesses as well as non-profits and people who simply want to have their own website. Basically, Net Neutrality means that under current rules by the Federal Communications Commissions, Internet providers must provide access to all websites on an equal basis and they are only charging consumers for the bandwidth that they use. This often comes in the form of unlimited Internet access for monthly rates. What Internet providers want to be able to do is speed up consumer access to certain websites that pay large amounts of money extra for the privilege, which inevitably would lead to small and new businesses being unable to financially compete. In other words, small businesses would be financially thrown out of competing on the Internet to the same degree they are now for television and radio advertisements.

How does this happen? Have you ever been to a website that was having server problems, and it just seemed to take forever to actually load even the most basic site? That was because of server problems. What about if your Internet in general was just comically slow accessing every website you tried? There was probably a problem with your router or your provider in general. Now imagine that same extremely slow access to a website, done intentionally by the Internet providers, simply because the business that owns the website was not able to pay an extra $5,000 a month to the Internet providers just to have the same access they have under Net Neutrality. And what about non-profits? I’m sure they don’t have a lot of extra money lying around. How about local political candidates? Forget having their message get out there on the Internet unless they cozy up to some big donors (as if money in politics were not a big enough problem to begin with.)

On July 15, I did what ordinary citizens should do when issues like this come up, and I took advantage of making a public comment to the Federal Communications Commission. In either a very ironic twist or a frighteningly eerie taste of things to come, access to and the FCC’s own system for public comment slowed to a crawl and kept generating error messages when I tried to use both systems to submit my comments. Instead, I had to email my comments in to Below is the comment I had to email in (with only minor modifications for grammar and organization that was not quite up to snuff at the late hour I commented).

As a small business owner, specifically an estate planning attorney, I have striven to create a small business that helps individuals and couples plan for the worst while hoping for the best. Even more specifically, I focus my law practice on helping people avoid the red tape, expense, and huge delays of the probate process for their estate when they pass on, but there are many larger and wealthier firms that seem OK with probate since they make A LOT of money managing this court process.

Getting out information about ways to avoid this court process is not a message that many probate attorneys want to see. While there are many forms of advertising, there has been no greater way to provide potential clients with this valuable information at such a low monetary cost as building a solid website and consistently providing relevant and valuable information on it. Your proposed rule could put an end to consumers finding this valuable information online easily and quickly since it would allow larger firms with a lot more capital and which make a lot more money handling the court process to simply pay their Internet provider to make sure that their website comes up easily while competitors trying to help people avoid the expensive court process cannot afford to pay the provider the same money.

In other words, right now information valuable to consumers on a Net-Neutral Internet rises to the top and can be viewed without huge buffering delays, but your proposed rule would place businesses willing to pay large sums of money ahead of the information consumers want to view. Large businesses with loads of cash to spend on advertising already have radio, television, newspaper, and magazine advertising with which to dominate the marketplace. Leave the Internet Net-Neutral so us small business owners have the ability to earn the American Dream through our innovation and content rather than being forced to buy it with money we don’t have.

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