Net Neutrality: It’s Essential to Our Economy and to Local Businesses’ Success

The FCC will vote on Net Neutrality Feb. 26. I’m the CEO of a company that works  with small- and medium-sized businesses – helping them grow their customer-base using the Internet. Based on my experience with these businesses, I have no doubt that the FCC will do irreparable harm to our entire economy if they block Net Neutrality.

America has always been known for fostering the dreams of entrepreneurs and small businesses. Our nation is better because innovators like Walt Disney truly believe that the U.S. is a place where “if you can dream you can do it.”

An open Internet, with equal access for all, levels the business playing field in countless ways – it helps businesses distribute products, transact sales, run back office applications in the cloud, and so much more. When it comes to my company’s business, online marketing, neutrality prevents companies with deep pockets from gaining an advantage over SMBs. Essentially, the big guys can’t jump to the front of the line or pay extra for more rapid delivery of their online marketing content and ads.

A fast, reliable, neutral Internet is essential to successful online marketing, and marketing is integral to building a business. How quickly a website loads, a search is completed, an ad is served or social media content is delivered, can make or break the quality of the customer’s experience.

If SMBs are relegated to the slow-lane in a “pay-for-speed” Internet system, the experience they can offer potential and existing customers would be inferior to that offered by businesses in the “fast lane.” While a few seconds of wait time may not sound like a lot, research shows that it does make a difference, and can impact a businesses’ bottom line. Consider these statistics:

Local businesses are crucial in helping grow our overall economy by driving job growth, creativity and competition. I believe they deserve access to the same tools available to big brands, including the same digital marketing and advertising technologies, and the same Internet availability and speed.

I know I’m not alone in my opinions about Net Neutrality. Whether you agree or disagree, and if you want to participate in the discussion, you can do just that. Congress is in recess this week, so I would encourage you to reach out to your representatives while they’re at home. Make your voice heard before the FCC votes next Thursday on Net Neutrality rules.

Net Neutrality levels the playing field by giving SMBs the Internet access they deserve, and that gives them the opportunity to dream, compete and succeed.

 

This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Sharon Rowlands

Sharon Rowlands was named CEO of ReachLocal in April 2014. Ms. Rowlands has more than 20 years of experience leading multi-billion dollar companies serving small- and medium-sized businesses, financial markets, and enterprise customers. From 2011 to 2013, she was CEO of Altegrity, which she transformed from a holding company into three independent business units, each with its own growth strategy. From 2008 to 2011 Ms. Rowlands was CEO of Penton Media, and prior to that she was with Thomson Financial. During her over ten-year tenure at Thomson, she held a variety of executive-level positions, including President and CEO from 2005 to 2008, and established the company as one of the most innovative partners to the global financial community. Ms. Rowlands received her Postgraduate Certificate in Education from the University of London and her Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Newcastle, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

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