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Victory in the Fight for Net Neutrality

Feb 26, 2015

by Althea Erickson

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Today the FCC voted to do what we’ve been urging them to do all along — establish rules that protect net neutrality under the strongest legal authority available to them.

It’s been less than a year since FCC Chairman Wheeler proposed rules that would have undermined the free and open Internet. His original proposal, released last May, would have allowed big companies to cut deals with broadband providers for faster access to consumers, putting them in the “Internet fast lane” and relegating everyone else to the “slow lane.”

Right away, Etsy and our community joined the fight to protect net neutrality. At the time, nobody thought we could win — the cable companies were too powerful. We were a just bunch of startups, small businesses and public interest groups. What power did we have?

But over the course of the year we made our case — not by hiring an army of lobbyists or making political contributions — but with the real stories of real people. We explained that the proposed rules would hurt the more than 1 million sellers (mostly women) who depend on Etsy to pay their bills and feed their families. We urged policymakers to protect the democratic nature of the Internet, which allows Etsy sellers to succeed based on the quality of their products, not the depths of their pockets.

Patricia Berrett, from Oxford, PA, expressed the sentiments of many Etsy sellers in her public comments to the FCC: “The Internet is important to me because, as a widowed woman with a micro-business online through Etsy — earning money that literally keeps a roof over my head and food in the kitchen — I need to know that there will not be barriers to entry for Etsy, the shops on Etsy, and all the new ideas and services that individuals like me (and smarter than me) hope to bring to the marketplace. If ISP subscribers have an easier time loading websites of existing companies than a small new innovative product, there’s no way that they — or I — will be able to compete or succeed.”

Over the course of the year, we told our story to anyone who would listen, meeting with people in the FCC, the Administration, and Congress. Throughout the campaign, we heard over and over that the Etsy story helped convince policymakers that this issue mattered to real people. The New York Times described our community as “the most important constituency for network neutrality: people like Etsy sellers, Tumblr bloggers, and Kickstarter entrepreneurs, people who use the Internet to circumvent the world’s entrenched power structures.”

On September 10, more than 30,000 members of the Etsy community participated in the Internet Slowdown, joining more than 1 million others who contacted Congress and the FCC on a single day. Many Etsy sellers also “crafted” comments to the FCC, embroidering pillows and engraving spoons calling on Chairman Wheeler to “Protect the Open Internet.” All told, more than 4 million people submitted public comments to the FCC.

And those voices mattered. In November, President Obama came out in favor of strong rules. Three weeks ago, Chairman Wheeler announced his intention to propose clear, bright line rules that banned discrimination online under the strongest authority available to him. Today, the FCC voted to enact those rules.

Thank you to everyone in the Etsy community who made this moment possible. Thank you to the startups and public interest groups who worked so hard to break through the Washington influence machine. And thank you to the public officials who listened to our stories, and decided to do the right thing.

This is a victory worth celebrating. Go Team Internet!