Appeals Court Decision Could Add Online Charges
At the beginning of April, the federal appeals court ruled against the wishes of small businesses and the Federal Communication Commission and handed down a ruling in favor of communications giant Comcast. This ruling gave the company the freedom to slow bandwidth speed for the Internet users it chooses (in this case, those slowing down the server with bitTorrent files).
This could be a problem for small businesses, which use the Internet to do business, upload photos and maintain company websites – or online stores for clients, in the case of industry distributors. Small-business experts have expressed concern that this will lead to small businesses being charged more for their additional needs, with providers charging extra for the use of Skype or more extensive bandwidth.
“Having e-mail and access to my website is of the utmost importance to me,” says Jason Gleber, vice president of sales and marketing for The Unique Image Co. (asi/348439). “If it’s moving slower than it normally does, that’s absolutely something that would hinder me as a businessperson.” He says that at this point he is happy with the service he has, but he has been approached about getting more bandwidth.
The small-business mentoring association, SCORE, recently announced an initiative to help small businesses get access to broadband, or at least learn what their options are under the current system, whether or not net neutrality ever becomes law. Technology firms including AT&T, Google and Microsoft have partnered with the organization to help make it easier for businesses to acquire broadband access. It will encourage Web skills and e-commerce capabilities through local workshops and online training.
“For a small business, every second of transaction time on the site impacts that client experience, so we’re encouraging entrepreneurs to have fast, stable systems that serve clients well, and broadband is a very effective way to do that,” says Christine Banning, vice president of marketing and communication for SCORE. Those interested in finding out more information about SCORE’s offerings can visit www.score.org/broadband.html.
“People need to be thinking about it, but it’s really not on the radar right now,” says Steve Straus, a small-business coach for 23 years, who used to work in the technology sector. He points to a client who runs his entire small business from his iPhone and would be significantly impacted with any price hike or slow down of service. Straus says, “He’s really depending on the online access and if his costs go up, he’ll be paying attention to this.”
Deanna Duncan, general manager for Olympic Embroidery (asi/287459), expresses an interest in learning more about what her options are for ensuring a speedy Internet connection, but admits that the company is able to work around any slowdowns. “Most of our customers send us what they have, which is usually just a low-resolution image anyway, and I just size down what I send to them as a smaller file,” she says. “We just work around our bandwidth option. It doesn’t require a lot to send an e-mail.” – AP