I never talk about politics here, and I don’t intend to start. However, if Thursday’s repeal of Net Neutrality goes through, it’s likely that there will no longer be an Amalie blog or Amalie website. Today’s issue hits too close to home for this small business owner to stay silent. Please take a few minutes to follow along with me. Thank you.
The first time I sat down and logged onto the internet by myself, I was just 8 years old. I’d been taking typing lessons for well over a year at school; I could already write faster and more accurately than most adults I knew. Between dial-up speeds and my parent’s strict screen-time rules, I wasn’t able to surf the internet for hours on end like I wanted to; my 1 hour time limit was ticking. I had to use it wisely.
Per my older, wiser brothers instructions, I logged into ICQ and began searching for others to share ideas and exchange culture with: virtual pen pals.
I already had a real pen pal in Taiwan, but it took weeks for our letters to get to each other. With ICQ, I could talk to people all over the world, just by entering chat rooms and looking for people with similar interests. Other the following weeks and months, I met people from all over the US, the Netherlands, England – and many other countries I’d never even heard of. Conversation with total strangers was limited, but fast; crazy fast. I could communicate with people around the world – ask them about their life, environment, interests – as if they were there in the room with me, instead of 5,000+ miles away.
The internet opened up a whole new world for me: one where I could explore, learn, grow, and adventure every single day.
As I grew up, I used the internet daily for research, product discovery, social connection. I used it to find new music, read crazy conspiracy theories – as well as true information so crazy it seemed like it must be a conspiracy – and continued to dive deeper and learn more: Html, Css, Java, social tools, website building.
Enabled by the internet, I learned how to build a website, create a business, find suppliers and manufacturers (for Wink!). Later I learned how to create a logo, use Adobe illustrator, Photoshop; I studied design principles, learned how to take photos and set up lights for photography. I also learned how to best grow and harvest various plants, how to make oils and extracts, how to formulate and preserve products.
I learned about history, economics, finance, politics, marketing, branding, operations research. I looked up my professors, investors, new and old acquaintances. SEO, blogging, even how to model my house, my lab, how to build a better chicken coop.
The open internet became my home.
Blogs and vlogs, Youtube and Google all enabled my education. Without them, I wouldn’t have a business. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Before the open internet, knowledge was held in small pockets, and often locked away by a key: money.
With an open internet, information is freely available to all. It’s just up to us to use it.
3 years ago, I started traveling to China – not temporarily, for quick trips, but for long spans of times, often 2-3 months at a time.
In China, the internet is not open.
In fact, you have to use a VPN – a proxy – to move around the “firewall” set up by the Chinese government. There is no Google in China. There’s no Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter. There’s no “googling” to find an answer. Information is not readily, easily disseminated. Rumors become viral, and are not easily dispelled, without an open internet. The government controls what you can and can’t read and when and where you can read it.
You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
Without an open internet, I found myself stumbling around, struggling to grapple with my new environment. I was paralyzed. Learning was limited to daily interactions, and everyone was always in a damn hurry. Progress halted on almost every front while I was in China. Even with a VPN – which many don’t even know exist in China; I only knew because I was from outside of China – internet speeds were so slow that I could rarely get answers for anything.
I was completely crippled.
It’s hard to believe that the US could ever be in the same situation as China.
“Home of the free, land of the brave” has a nice ring to it. But is it true? Will it be true in 10 years? 5? Next year? After Thursday? Can we call ourselves “the land of the free” when information is no longer free?
Tomorrow, December 14th, 2017, the Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, and 4 congress men and women will meet to decide the future of the open internet. They are meeting to vote on repealing Net Neutrality.
Right now, the repeal is expected to go through, 3 to 2.
The repeal is in direct opposition to the wishes of millions and millions of Americans – including myself. I will lobby long and hard for an open internet. Perhaps I have an idealistic view of the open internet, but honestly, I’ve seen both sides; in fact, I’ve lived them.
With the repeal of Net Neutrality, telecom companies will be able to bundle together domains and decide when and where you can use how much internet. Sites like Amaliebeauty.com? May no longer be available under your internet plan.
The sites you know and love – including ANY and EVERY indie business, blog, and other small website online – may not be available to you any longer. Your traffic may be throttled to the point where you can’t visit us. You can’t find out about us. None of us.
Repealing Net Neutrality means certain death to thousands of small businesses and bloggers, like myself, like Amalie.
Even if you can afford the most expensive net package, not everyone can. Repealing net neutrality means limiting the dissemination of knowledge. It means limiting future generations ability to acquire information, discern between what’s true and untrue.
Products like WINK? Would literally never exist in the first place. Not without open access to information, and the open sharing of information, in an open internet.
Without an open internet, WINK may soon cease to exist. Amalie depends highly on organic, online traffic. We depend on our readers, our supporters. If they can’t find us in the first place or if those that already know about us can no longer visit, there won’t be enough sales to sustain the company. I simply will not be able to afford to continue selling products online. Since 90% of our sales are online, Amalie will no longer be able to exist.
To me, Net Neutrality is not a political issue. It is literally the most important issue I’ve seen brought to the table this year. It’s not a political issue; it’s an American issue. It’s also a small business issue.
The open internet is vital to growth and progress of our nation.
Thursday is the vote.
Thursdays vote decides whether or not I – and tens of thousands of Americans – have a future online as small business men and women.
As Americans, as small business supporters, as open internet supporters: this is our last chance.
Take a few minutes today – just 5 or 10 – probably less than it took to read all of this – to call your Congress men and women, as well as the Chairman of the FCC. Here’s how:
WRITE, CALL AND TWEET
You can use this website to (very easily) first WRITE congress, then CALL them (seriously, it’s sooo easy).
The even give you a script to say as you are dialing from your computer, “I support the *existing* net neutrality rules and I would like *you* to join Representative Mike Coffman in his call to *stop* Thursday’s FCC vote.”
Keep scrolling down the page and see who your representatives are – if they do NOT oppose the repeal of Net Neutrality – and tweet them in 2 clicks. If you’re in Indiana, like me, Todd Young and Joe Donnelly BOTH are on this list. TWEET THEM!
CALL THE FCC
Call the line of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and leave a message. The line is always busy, so leaving a message works just fine. Here’s how:
1. Dial 202-418-1000. Don’t worry, it goes to voicemail; you won’t be put on the spot.
2. After it rings 3-4 times and goes to voicemail, say, “Hi I am (name) from (city, state), and I oppose the repeal of Net Neutrality.” You can also say your phone number, because they ask for it on the voicemail.
3. Repeat again tomorrow (Wednesday, December 13th).
That’s it! Don’t just leave a message online; let your voice (literally) be heard.
KEEP SHOPPING SMALL
During this tough time, support small businesses on and offline. Let us know that you are there, that you care.
OTHER WAYS TO GET INVOLVED
You can also share this blog directly on social media, to inform others.
Thanks for taking the time to read today. This is an extremely important issue to me, and I hope – now – to many of you, too. Let’s join together to #SaveNetNeutrality #StopTheFCC