Brookings native Scott Meyer, a brilliant and energetic entrepreneur with the world at his feet, came back to South Dakota in 2009 to build his future. He came in part because he saw the Internet leveling the playing field for rural places like South Dakota:
With equal access to the world’s knowledge thanks to the Internet, South Dakota again looked like the prairie of my great-great grandparents. I could:
- Access the world’s knowledge on the Internet and sites like Wikipedia
- Educate myself with online classes and videos
- Sell products anywhere in the world thanks to sites like Amazon
- Produce products in my home thanks to 3D printing technology
With equal access to these resources, I wouldn’t have to leave. I could share my brain instead of draining it away. Combined with the knowledge of everyone, everywhere, I could create almost anything [Scott Meyer, "Why the FCC Hates South Dakota," 9Clouds: Digital Homesteading, 2014.04.27].
Meyer sees the FCC's proposed unraveling of net neutrality, allowing the richest corporations to purchase fast lanes on the Internet to make their content more easily accessible than that of small businesses and regular citizens, as a recipe for recharging rural brain drain:
ISPs are excited by the chance to make more money with these special deals, but for businesses in South Dakota or anywhere else in the world trying to get started, this is the same old story.
- If our website is slower than the larger competitor who can pay for fast access, who will visit our store?
- If our new song or video can’t load on a mobile phone because we haven’t paid for fast access, who will listen or watch?
- If our non-profit wants to raise money, but our tear-jerking video doesn’t load fast enough, how will it survive?
An open Internet provides a lifeline to rural communities and businesses. Any entrepreneur can create the next Facebook, the saying goes. They won’t be able to in a world without equal access to all content, a concept known as net neutrality [Meyer, 2014.04.27].
Net neutrality is good for small business and free speech. It is especially good for business and speech in South Dakota.
Eleven U.S. Senators wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler this week calling on the FCC to remove "fast lanes" and protect net neutrality. Our neighbor Senator Al Franken from Minnesota signed that letter. South Dakota's Senators Thune and Johnson did not. Senator Thune cheered a court reversal of FCC net neutrality protections last winter He seems more interested in posturing about over-regulation than protecting the real South Dakota interests Meyer identifies. Thune has voted against net neutrality; Johnson has voted to protect it.
Add net neutrality to the list of questions for our U.S. Senate candidates (Thursday, May 15, 8 p.m., SDPB): as you seek to replace Senator Tim Johnson, would you continue his defense of net neutrality, or would you throw South Dakota entrepreneurs like Meyer to the rich ISP wolves?