The Internet, by its very nature, has been the greatest force for positive economic and social change I’ve seen in my lifetime. It connects people to ideas, marketplaces and to each other; crossing oceans, borders and cultures with ease. It has done more for educating and inspiring good in the world than the most successful newspaper or the most popular politician — toppling dictatorships, exposing corruption and giving a voice to those who would otherwise be silenced. It has fueled the economic freedom of millions and has been a pipeline to understanding, liberty, peace and human solidarity.

What’s made the Internet great from the onset is a philosophy that says that access should be open to all. For my customers at GoDaddy, it allows any smart and passionate individual to compete head-to-head with the largest global enterprises, regardless of their access to capital. That philosophy is now under threat by new rules proposed by the FCC that would allow individually negotiated data rates for websites—effectively creating fast and slow lanes for Internet traffic. If Net Neutrality is lost, enterprise businesses (that already hold every other advantage over the little guy) could permanently regain the upper hand, and that’s bad for the US economy and the future of independent ventures.

This morning I sent an open letter to FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler that states in no uncertain terms that Net Neutrality is critical for the future of innovation, the future of new ideas, the health of small business in the US, and the health of the US economy as a whole. Please join me in standing up for what’s right by voicing your support for the free and open Internet.

Here’s the Letter:

 

Blake Irving
CEO, GoDaddy
14455 N Hayden Rd
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

 

September 10, 2014

 

The Honorable Thomas E. Wheeler
Chairman, Federal Communications Commission

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20554

Re: Net Neutrality and the American Dream for Small Business

 

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

GoDaddy is a technology platform company with a vision to help people to easily start, confidently grow and successfully run their own ventures by providing Internet-based business tools and services. With nearly 60 million domain names under management and serving billions of unique DNS queries every day, GoDaddy’s infrastructure represents a substantial portion of what Americans think of as the Internet today.

Our 12 million customers (9 million in the U.S.) represent the face of small business in our connected age.  They are developers, dentists, lawyers, restaurateurs, retailers, charities, architects, inventors, accountants and artists.  Overwhelmingly they are sole-proprietors or micro-employers with less than 5 employees—which is true of 85% of all business in the US.  Most have been in business for more than 3 years and more often than not, they are women-led.  Our customers are the backbone of the U.S. economy and proof that with the help of a little technology, the American Dream is still alive and kicking.

Our customers are diverse, but there is one characteristic that they all share—each of them depends on the open nature of the Internet to compete against the vast resources of enterprise competition.  The conversation on Net Neutrality has focused thus far on the Internet’s power to promote innovation, enhance market liquidity, fuel the spread of new ideas (regardless of their source) and connect people across borders, classes or economies.  But to millions of Americans, the Internet’s open nature is at the core of their very livelihood.  They depend on the equalizing force of the Internet to level the playing field; giving them access to equal opportunities to succeed, regardless of size or access to capital.

It is incumbent on the FCC to protect an open Internet and establish rules that allow business of any size to succeed or fail based on their own merits, not the size of their checkbook.  Disappointingly, the current proposal under review would still undermine the open Internet by letting broadband providers negotiate priority agreements with wealthy companies while creating disincentives for them to support companies with humbler means.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small business is the driving force behind the U.S. economy—providing jobs for 55% of the nation’s private workforce and 66% of all net new jobs since the 1970s.  Small Businesses in America occupy nearly half of all commercial space, an estimated 30 billion square feet, and represent 54% of all U.S. sales.

Since Time magazine named “The Computer” the “man of the year” in 1982, the number of small businesses in the United States has increased by 49%.  Thanks in large part to the Internet, the number and profitability of small businesses in America has grown rapidly.  As American enterprises continue to reduce their workforces on average, the rate of establishment for new small businesses has grown, and the rate of failures for those businesses has declined.

Make no mistake, the equalizing power of the open Internet is the differentiating factor in the success of millions of small ventures in our hyper-connected economy. Under the current proposal, most small businesses websites in America would be relegated to the slow lane—thus transformed into “second-class” economic players almost overnight.

Mr. Chairman, establishing any rule for individualized bargaining of internet speeds will hurt American small businesses and cause immutable damage to the U.S. economy.  Concessions, like the proposed standard for what is “commercially reasonable” or definitions for “minimum access levels,” ring hollow in light of the risks to our economy.  Such vague legal standards would offer no relief (or affordable recourse when abuse occurs) to small businesses and could push our economy backwards.

Of the 1.1 million comments you’ve received, just over 800,000 have been made available to the public for review and analysis.   GoDaddy has looked at the raw data, leveraging the same Hadoop infrastructure and deep learning algorithms we use to customize products for our customers.  What we’ve found, though not surprising, is that small businesses from around the country have responded with a unanimous voice.  Their sentiment cannot be parsed by red state or blue state, by urban or rural, nor by technical or non-technical.  The percent of Small Businesses who commented in favor of the current proposal, to borrow a phrase, is: zero point zero.

“My small business depends entirely on Internet affordability,” wrote one entrepreneur from Santa Barbara.  “The Internet is seemingly the only place left in the world where people other than the already rich can participate in a meaningful way.  Please don’t allow a situation that will make it possible for mega-companies to have dominion over everyone else.  The Internet is all about equality and fairness. Let’s keep it that way.”

Main street business owners have no doubts about consequences of the proposed rules. “I own a small business that will essentially be wiped away by this concession to bigger, richer parties,” wrote a businessman from Noblesville, Indiana.  “My business relies on net neutrality to survive, as a creator and hoster of web content.  But with this rule, I will have no chance against big money.  My efforts will be made useless, and thus, you are killing my business with this “small” concession in the fight that you have, until recently, championed.  I suspect there are thousands more small businesses that will likewise be shuttered because they too do not possess the cash to buy influence, either of the government or of the ISPs to prioritize their content.  I hope that you all reconsider this course of action.”

Whether you work within the proposed framework or reclassify under Title II of the Communications Act, the result needs to be clear, enforceable rules against access discrimination that protect the level playing field for all businesses.  I encourage you to consider all available tools at the FCC’s disposal to ensure that the Internet remains free and open.

Should you opt for reclassification under Title II, giving the FCC the clear authority needed to protect the open Internet, I ask that you also adopt broad forbearance as suggested by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)—ensuring that the FCC does what is necessary to protect the open Internet, and no more.  In the EFF’s own words, “we call on the FCC to do the right and sensible thing and reclassify, we must simultaneously demand that the FCC explicitly reject any telecommunications regulations beyond specific and narrow prohibitions and requirements designed to create a fair and level playing field for innovation and user choice. Without broad forbearance, reclassification can become a nightmare for users, innovators and service providers alike.”

The single most important thing the FCC can do in its regulatory capacity is to ensure that the Internet remains an open platform for ideas, innovation and free commerce.  The stakes are high for small businesses, and that means they are equally high for the entire U.S. economy.   The small businesses of America have spoken.  Now it’s time to show all of them, Mr. Chairman, that you are listening.

 

Sincerely,

 

Blake Irving
CEO, GoDaddy

 

 

Photo: Filmmaker

14 thoughts on “Net Neutrality and the American Dream for Small Business

  1. I support this cause. Free market and net neutrality are those important pillars that have always made this country great. Let’s not shatter that.

  2. This would be terrible for business.
    i can testify that most of the work i do is for small businesses, and this will be approved, it will hurt so many businesses as well as employees who will loose their jobs as a result of reduction in business volume due to the fact their site is too slow.
    Internet is freedom, this according to my view represent the American Dream.
    making regulations effectively killing the idea of Internet.

    I really love the fact you took the time to actually write this letter, and hope it will not go unnoticed.
    Please let me know if there is anything i can do to help in this matter.
    All the best.
    Manny E.
    3w.

  3. Fantastic! This is a rousing thank-you for placing GoDaddy’s name and your own voice behind the support for Net Neutrality. A hugely important issue facing our information highway. We are at a cross-roads, and the decisions made by the FCC on this issue will have large and long-lasting affects on the free travel of information for all.

  4. Maintain Net Neutrality. Complete freedom on the internet is the key to a bright future. Providing fast lanes online to major corporations is the epitome of elitism and will destroy the ability for small business to be successful. I support companies being able to expand to become major corporations as much as anyone. I want people to succeed, but by their own merits. This proposal will be effectively limiting the voice of smaller businesses and independent groups and voices, providing major news outlets (which, let’s face it, are very biased) a fast lane to customers, while shutting up smaller news outlets and blogs. This kind of effect is the Nazi book burning of our day, limiting the voices of those who deserve to be heard. True liberty no longer exists anywhere in the world, not even in America these days. Don’t destroy the one avenue of true freedom and liberty that we still have.

  5. Free and equal access, just like free and equal justice, is a critical issue for prosperity and perhaps even the survival of our great republic. The people need to be educated about the importance of standing up for Net neutrality and take action against the greed of corporate government. As for me, I’m forwarding your letter to Chairman Wheeler to my Senators, all my Representatives and with your permission, on Televizine.

  6. I’m surprised my entirely factual comment on Godaddy PAC’s donations to anti-neutrality politicians was not allowed through moderation.

    It’s unsettling when the truth is deemed inapporpriate.

    1. Your comment was just copied and pasted from thedomains.com (http://www.thedomains.com/2014/09/16/fcc-receives-over-3-million-comments-on-net-neutrality/), so it, by definition, was redundant and adding nothing to the conversation.

      What’s worse though is that your comment was anything but “entirely factual.” To be entirely factual would mean you shared the whole truth, which you did not. The omissions are so glaring as to make a reasonable person think that they couldn’t be omitted by mistake, which would put your comment in the category of “dishonest.”

      The GoDaddy PAC was a fully employee funded group that contributed to dozens of legislators from both sides of the isle over the 4 election cycles you mentioned. You chose to only report PAC donations to legislators who’ve come out against net neutrality while systematically ignoring the donations to legislators who support net neutrality — implying that those employee donations were surgical and made with the intent of harming net neutrality. If you had included all the donation data, readers would instantly see that there was zero correlation between PAC donations and this issue.

      However, your omissions didn’t stop there. You also quoted the dollar amount of donations, including $14,600 in donations to Senator McConnell since 2008. What you failed to mention is that in the same period, Senator McConnell raised a staggering $93,869,472 for his campaigns. To suggest that GoDaddy “bought” Senator McConnell’s negative vote with donations that only add up to 0.016% of his campaign is laughable.

      By putting forth these half-truths, you make the “gotcha” insinuation that I don’t actually support a free and open internet—and that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’re trying to fight for net neutrality, let’s fight this fight together. If you’ve got some other ax to grind, please take it to your own blog.

  7. I am glad to see others standing up for small business in this country. here at [mod: my business] we work with and network with many small companies that help our customers obtain the services they need to make their lives better.

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