The United States has been touted as the land of opportunity since its inception. For centuries, people from all over the world have migrated to America, searching for streets paved with gold and opportunity beyond the scope of their home countries. In the past, migration was not as easy as it is today. There were no airplanes to soar passengers across the expanses of the Atlantic or Pacific. There wasn’t international shipping for all your belongings that would deliver them to your doorstep overnight. Relocating was a long, difficult process that often consisted of weeks at sea, on overcrowded ships with no guarantee of entry on the other side. The most amazing part of this process is the fact that people still did it. Not just a few people, but thousands streamed into America through iconic immigration centers like Ellis Island every single day, my family included.
While they all had different reasons for coming to this great nation, the core reasoning behind their migration remains the same. America presented an opportunity far greater than their home countries had offered. It was a land safe from the horrors of war, famine and economic ruin. It was a place brimming with opportunity, where anybody could achieve success if they worked hard enough to make it a reality.
It’s no secret that the United States is falling behind on a global scale. The times have changed completely from the days of “fresh off the boat with $20 and a dream” success stories.
A new study joint study by Princeton University and Northwestern University suggests that the United States is no longer a republic or a democracy, but rather an oligarchy. An oligarchy is a state in which a powerful and rich group of people exert influence over the rest of the general population by using their control over the country’s wealth as a power tool. Unsurprisingly, the study concluded that decisions made in politics were swayed much more by the interests of influential people and lobbyists rather than the interests of the general public.
This has been happening for years and has prevented many small businesses from taking root and prospering. The Walmarts of America continue to spread across the landscape, fueled by corporate tax breaks and carried on the backs of minimum wage workers straight into powerful lobbyist positions. It wasn’t always this way. In the 1950’s, corporate taxes made up 27.3 percent of federal tax revenue. Today, they only make up 10 percent according to the Office of Management and Budget. This drastic shift in tax revenue source falls on the backs of the general population, small business owners and employees alike. Since then, the door of economic prosperity has become hinged on the creation of “jobs” by these corporations and trickle down economics, not the creation of careers or new businesses. This trend continues to this day, but there is still one great equalizer: the internet.
In the sense of traditional business, the playing field is far from level, but since the .com boom of the 1990’s, the internet has acted as an equalizer in the world of business. Due to its nature as an open and level platform, everyone from small businesses to the largest of oligarchical corporations has an equal chance at capturing an audience. With this fair and level playing field, businesses such as Amazon, E-Bay, Facebook, Google, and other online giants were formed based on user choice alone. Innovation was driven from a truly capitalist standpoint, one where pure competition drove forward progress and fostered innovation.
This level playing field that seemed to be a glimmer of hope for the American Dream is rapidly succumbing to the pitch of the oligarchy. Due to lobbying from cable companies such as Time-Warner and Comcast, the FCC is planning to introduce a new plan to allow for throttling of internet speeds. These new rules would sanction the creation of “fast lanes” by cable providers, which established companies would pay a fee to be a part of. With the U.S. internet speeds already well behind the rest of the world, and prices considerably higher, this segregation of content will plunge us much lower in the rankings than we already are.
Internet speed rankings aside, the end of a truly neutral internet has much further-reaching implications for businesses around the United States. Small businesses already have more than enough hurdles to deal with when trying to compete with the oligarchs. With the end of net neutrality, established companies will be at a much greater advantage in streaming information to potential customers. The fees associated with the fast lane are just another way to bar new businesses from entering the playing field, but shockingly internet giants like Google are taking a stand against the FCC’s proposed regulation.
Google can obviously afford to be placed in the fast lane in every single household in America. Even though the decline of net neutrality will pave the way for a stronger hold on the internet battlegrounds for Google, they are a vocal supporter for the preservation of net neutrality. This moral standpoint taken by Google and other major players in the online marketplace is one that prioritizes the greater good over their own financial gain. If major corporations are taking this stance, that is a definitive red flag that something serious is going wrong, and it needs to be stopped.
Starting a business today is like joining a sports league. In an oligarchical society, your opponent also happens to be the referee, the owner of the stadium and the chairman of the league. With the impending death of net neutrality, the other team will now also decide which equipment you can use. It’s going to be like playing hockey, but you have to pay extra money each time you want to use a pair of skates and the only alternative is to play in bare feet. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best hockey team in America, if you don’t have the money to use skates like the other team, you will always lose.
The only way to prevent further decline of small business in the United States is to talk to your senators and congressmen about net neutrality. Take a stand, and make sure the virtual playing field is level for your business and businesses of the future. Keep America, the inventors of the internet, on the forefront of online business. Below is a link to the FCC website, where citizens can comment on the impending legislation, and let our voices be heard. Whether the FCC will listen remains to be seen.