Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Why Net Neutrality Matters to International Startups

By Paul Chen

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about Net Neutrality.   Many people has came out against this future ruling.  Even the big players of the net like Netflix, Facebook and Google are against it.  As startups, it is even more dire for us.  Imagine a superhighway like the New Jersey Turnpike for example.  At the current model, everyone as long as they pay the tolls, they can travel as they please at the legal speed limit.   If NN ends, you would have like 3 lanes for people who paid the premium tolls and can travel on it like they would on the  Autobahn and the rest of us who didn't pay the premium tolls would be given one lane to squeeze through with all the others and at really slow speeds.  Some of us might not even get on at all.  Remember the days when you waited the whole night to be able to see one or two pictures on your internet browser?  Many Youtubers and John Oliver from HBO has made wonderful pleas against the ruling.  

However, being a European startup, you might think, why me worry? These rulings are only for Americans.  It has no effect outside of their borders.  In the EU, Net Neutrality is a law.  But that is a bad assumption.  As long as Silicon Valley remains the proving ground for all tech startups, it does matter.  It matters a lot!  As more and more startups are depending on the Cloud and IoT as well as the web for their implementations, the way that you are connected to those devices and networks can mean whether people will use your service or not.  If you are left to using the slow lane, your UI and UX will suffer and there goes your customers.   So if you have a nice new app and want to show it off in the Valley, its performance will suffer greatly due to the slow down. The only way that you might escape the wrath is if you are the lucky few who are in accelerators or incubators sponsored by the ISP giants like Comcast or Verizon. 

Sure, if your the source and the destination of your traffic is outside of the US jurisdiction, the traffic will remain high quality according to local laws.  However, when it goes inside the US borders, it will slow down like molasses in January.  

Despite all the recent economic crises, the US market remains one of the most liberal, curious and open.  Outside of Asia, you will not find a group of people so open to trying something new.  You look at American pop culture, as soon as an app gets popular it becomes a part of everyday vernacular.  People are talking about Pintrest, Tindr, Tumblr, FourSquare and others on a daily basis and just about everyone knows what you are talking about.  Americans love technology!  If they have a problem, they would want to have an app to fix it.  In Europe, it takes a lot longer.   

These days, we live in a global village and the network is only as strong as the weakest link.  If NN is allowed to end, one of the weakest link will be bandwidth usage in the US.  People chastise China for the great firewall.  I would argue that it is probably better to be locked out than to be allowed in and given a bad time.  Just ask Leo Decaprio and Leo Messi. 

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