A Note on Net Neutrality

And we’re BACK! Chica Chocolate here, with some more material for your perusing pleasure. Here’s the deal with this week’s letter: we’ve got net neutrality on our mind, so this letter is a little different. Hopefully you're not tired of hearing about this issue, because we have got some things to say. This is not, by the way, a research paper. If you want to learn more about net neutrality, what it is, and how you can get involved in protecting it, we’re not the experts. But we promised to share what’s on our minds, and right now, this is it.

(Thumbnail Image: Recipes for Self Love)

Cassidy: To My Ecommerce Ride or Die,

You know that bit where we transfer our cramps to a male politician of choice? I’m still working on it. This month, I’m sending mine to Ajit Pai.

When you see the ads and alarmist headlines that tell you to freak out about net neutrality right NOW, how do you dedicate your freakout? Does your mind go to Chica first? I remember my first encounter with the net neutrality issue. At the time, I was writing a paper on Pai’s appointment to chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and the implications of said appointment for the “Internet as a vessel of free speech.” I thought it was terribly clever. But I was approaching the argument from a distance‒I was thinking *big picture*. Did I consider what it would mean for our fledgling business? Probably not.

Net neutrality means equal access to information. But it also preserves equal access to innovation, at least theoretically. The argument in favor of dismantling net neutrality maintains the opposite, and the big “why” on letting corporate interests control an incredibly powerful platform for social, political, and personal engagement is essentially this: an open Internet doesn’t incentivize growth. I mean, excuse me, but it provides its own incentive. Stop legitimizing the elite!

And why does it matter for Chica? We’re not just a small business, we’re a small online business. If service providers are permitted to be the Internet’s gatekeepers, growing a competitive company will suddenly get a lot more expensive than it already is. What if customers can’t load our website? What happens to our access to potential investors and funding opportunities? What if we can’t harness a movement through offline marketing channels? Who will pay for our platform? We’ll be squashed before we have a chance to grow.

Every day I celebrate our baby steps, and in the same breath I worry about the challenges we face. But the minutiae of running this business seem insignificant in the face of the net neutrality debate.

What do you think?

Cass

Elise: To My Wifi Wifey,

We've just started introducing Chica to the world, which is both the most terrifying and thrilling feeling. What if we're rejected by consumers? What if we can't find affordable and efficient production? What if, what if, what if? The unknown is intimidating, and that unknown is the freakiest part of net neutrality for me. When I attempted to educate myself on the consequences of the legislation, I could not find a clear source.  

I never really appreciated the internet until we started Chica. We had an idea that we wanted to share with the world, and we were free to do just that after paying $15 for our URL. Some may argue that removing net neutrality will only affect large competitors of internet providers, but in the political climate of the country, I have little trust in the systems of censorship. What is to stop our online communities from becoming censored? What does that mean for movements, such as Black Lives Matter, who foster community across the country via the internet? What if an internet company chooses to censor Planned Parenthood, and people cannot access easy information about their sexual and reproductive health?

I have a lot of questions and confusion, and you know that I love to stress. However, I truly know that we are not going anywhere. If we can't run a sustainable e-commerce company, I'm going to kidnap you and drive around the country towing a freezer until we figure something out. On the way, we'll distribute zines about women's health and our rights, learn about other people and communities outside of our own, and scream our values out the window with a megaphone. Even against the fear we feel, they can't paralyze us or the work we wish to do.

As this letter is a contemplation of an insecurity, I leave you with the wise words of Oprah when asked on 60 Minutes in 1986: "What if the show fails?" 

"The show is going to do well. And if it doesn't, I will still do well. I will do well, because I am not defined by a show. I think we are defined by the way we treat ourselves and the way we treat other people. It would be wonderful to be acclaimed as this talk show host whose made it, that would be wonderful. But if that doesn't happen, there are other important things in my life."

Love, Elise (and Oprah)  

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