AUSTIN, Texas — Erin Young founded Slide UX, a design consulting company focused on user experience. By working remotely, she and her 15 employees rely on open access to the internet to connect with each other and their 50 clients.
If that access changed, it would affect Young's business model, because her company would bear the burden of those costs. She said she's more concerned about her clients.
“If it’s harder for startups to enter the market they’re less likely to invest in those projects to try and do it and they’re less likely to break through and create competition for larger companies,” Young
Those internet protections are commonly known as net neutrality. In the simplest of terms, the internet is a highway and all traffic travels at one speed.
"Every traffic should get priority so that the competition can thrive, there's no censorship, and they’ll be enterpreneurship, innovation that comes from that," said Prabhudev Konana, the Associate Dean of Instructional Innovation, at the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business.
This year, the Federal Communications Commision Chair Ajit Pai announced plans to eliminate net neutrality regulations. Supporters of the rules fear internet service providers could slow down traffic to certain websites or put others in the fast lane, at a higher price.
“Internet service providers may have the ability to say, 'You want Netflix you pay more, if you want access to this content, I don’t like it, it says something about my provider, I’ll block it, ” Konana said.
Opponents like Pai and Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz want less regulation. They argue if net neutrality is repealed, there would be a more competitive market. But Ken Fleischmann, an associate professor in the School of Information at The University of Texas at Austin, said while content online is essentially unlimited, there are limitations to providers, depending on where consumers live.
“In many cases folks only have one or two options," Flesichmann said. "In fact, in rural areas, people don’t have even have a high speed Internet option.”
Thursday, protesters demonstrated in front of Verizon stores across the country. The company was target because Pai was a Verizon lawyer. Rich Young, a Verizon spokesman said "Like those expressing their views today, Verizon fully supports an open internet and believe consumers should be able to use it to access lawful content when, where, and how they want. We've publicly committed to that before and we stand by that commitment today."
Those in favor of net neutrality remain skeptical. In 2014, Verizon successfully sued the FCC.
“One thing is true there is precedent of these things happenings,” Konana said.
"It's an interesting conflict between the sort of long time innovation value of the content providers and the short term emphasis on wealth of the service providers," Fleischmann said. “Innovation is an important thing to everybody, but so is wealth, how do you draw that trade off?”
Under the December 14 meeting, consumer will have to go on as business as usual.
"My hope would be that even if the repeal does occur, that the market defend itself from some of the most potentially negative outcomes," Young said.
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