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Meyer: Net Neutrality Levels Playing Field for Rural Economic Development

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?


  1. Tim 2014.05.11

    Just another way for the 1% to tighten their grip on this country, and given Wheelers background, don't expect him to stand in the way. We all know where Thune, Noem and the rest of republicans stand on helping the 1%.

  2. Les 2014.05.11

    90% of what you've written is hot button BS, Corey. Great blog push and nothing more.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.11

    Really, Les? Do elaborate: how is Meyer's assessment of the disadvantage he and other South Dakota entrepreneurs would face under net non-neutrality mere hot-button blog push.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.11

    What from Wheeler's background gives you pause, Tim?

  5. Matt Groce 2014.05.11

    "I could share my brain instead of draining it away." Funny he's obviously not using up all his bandwidth on Netflix like everybody else.

  6. Tim 2014.05.11

    Cory, as I recall, he used to work for either Comcast or Verizon, I have looked for the article I seen that in but can't find it yet.

  7. Les 2014.05.11

    If I read it right, Matt is right on.

    Amazon, Maddvile, Ebay, Wikipedia, email, etc don't consume the bandwidth highways that Hulu, Netflix, cinema now, YouTube, pandora, etc do. Equal access is not giving Netflix customers the right to an all you can eat package for 8.95/month while the rest of us suffer performance problems with Maddville, email etc because Netflix consumed the web. Comcast won its court battle over Netflix. Bandwidth consumption, is not equal access.

  8. Chris S. 2014.05.11

    Color me skeptical that Comcast is plaintively seeking an equal playing field for "bandwidth consumption." What they want is to monopolize content delivery and to give consumers no choice but to come to them. Eliminating streaming competitors would be a good way to achieve that, no?

  9. Les 2014.05.11

    Buy a 1000 miles of fiber as Comcast and many others have and let me consume it for equal cost to Wikipedia and see how long you stay in biz. Yes I'm skeptical of all the Rbocs boardroom decisions but for Netflix to sell an 8.95/month all you can eat off my back, feels no good.

  10. Les 2014.05.11

    The thought process of net neutrality is similar to the wireless thought process. Wireless is not wireless. It runs over fiber and copper and hits wireless consumers in a 0-20 mile radius.
    Unlimited bandwidth on my copper or fiber for nothing? Movies or streaming revenue sucks up bandwidth of the copper/fiber providers(hardly just Comcast) and they need dollars to build/maintain that infrastructure.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.11

    Les, FCC fast-lane proposal doesn't seem geared to protect us Web small-timers. Don't fast lanes open up the possibility that Pat Powers and I would get in a bidding war? The Kochs and RNC would bankroll a fast-lane buy for Pat; George Soros and the "entrenched powers" would bankroll my fast lane. Comcast and other ISPs would play us against each other, driving our bids higher and higher for the fastest delivery possible, while Kal Lis, MJL, Tsitrian, et al would all be struggling along in the slow lane?

  12. Les 2014.05.11

    Tell me why you need a 10meg fast lane to compete with Powers instead of the mandated 4meg down with your 5 kilobyte messages, if they're long winded that is?

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.11

    Oh, what about all those Gordon Howie videos and internal documents from the Bosworth campaign? My readers expect the fastest service, and those fractions of seconds add up to better user experience. Plus, even if I'm just serving up 5 KB per post, you need to multiply that by all the users I have to serve simultaneously when there's a hot scoop. Doesn't net neutrality mean all players get a fair shot at meeting viewer needs?

  14. Les 2014.05.11

    You are mixing Netflix/madville with consumers Cory. Viewers needs, or viewers wants? A consumer hitting the university for a few gig of data is different than the Netflix hitting my house with four devices streaming video for our wants. We should buy 4 movie passes if that is the case.

  15. Chris S. 2014.05.11

    The whole bandwidth consumption distinction is a red herring. The issue here is privatizing the commons for the benefit of a select few corporations. Splitting the internet into a Fast Lane and Slow Lane is even worse than most such instances, because so much depends on it these days. If commerce and dissemination of information are divided into a Fast Lane and Slow Lane, you can bet there will be monopolies of each.

    But hey, I for one welcome our benevolent Comcast overlords. Surely they only have our best interests at heart. Any information or websites they deny us are things we didn't need anyway!

  16. Les 2014.05.11

    Tell us why, you as a commercial enterprise, should be able to consume my network without cost, and how that is a red hearing Chris?

  17. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.05.12

    Al Franken has been on net neutrality from the first day he stepped foot in Washington.

    I admit that I don't understand the stuff Cory and Les are talking about. Here is what I do understand:

    A fast lane for Best Buy, for example, is like putting them next to the freeway with an off ramp directly into their parking lot.
    A slow lane for World of Wireless is like putting them in an alley with no signs.
    Public money is used for alleys and freeways. Should World of Wireless have an opportunity to build on the freeway and put up big, neon signs?
    World of Wireless are small storefronts that repair and sell phones. Nothing fancy there, and they sure don't look like they can afford to build at a prime commercial location.
    Is that comparable to this issue?

    Also, consumers such as myself pay more for faster service. Is that comparable to the Fast Lane/Slow Lane debate?

  18. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.05.12

    Or, last but not least, am I really as clueless as I feel about this?

    "Net neutrality" has a Freedom and Democracy sound to it and citizens around the world seem very anxious that it be maintained. Are all those people confused too? Or do they have good reason to fear an end to net neutrality?

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.12

    Deb's road analogy is good. Les, it's not about consumer fairness or bandwidth consumption. Suppose Scott Meyer's 9Clouds wants to stream hi-res videos on digital homesteading. Suppose I have two houses side by side. One wants to stream four different 9Clouds videos simultaneously. The other wants to stream four programs on Netflix simultaneously. Why should Netflix get preferential treatment on the information superhighway to deliver its content to House 2 faster than Meyer can deliver his content to House 1?

  20. Les 2014.05.12

    Debs road analogy is great. Ask the truckers how much they pay to haul large loads on our roads versus your Prius, Cory. We all pay for what we use on the roads, hopefully. Net flix will only get a fast lane if they raise your cost of doing biz with them and 4 meg down is more than enough for all at this point in technology, streaming or not.

  21. mike from iowa 2014.05.13

    Interesting read.

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