Today, General Assembly submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opposing discrimination and paid prioritization by Internet service providers. I am deeply concerned by the FCC’s proposed rules, and the repercussions they would have on our students and businesses like ours.
Under the FCC’s proposal, Internet service providers would be regulated by the FCC in the same way telephone companies are regulated. In practice, this means that Internet service providers could offer “paid prioritization” to customers with deep pockets. Pay more, and your content is delivered faster. Unfortunately, this type of discriminatory pricing would prevent many new entrepreneurial endeavors from ever getting off the ground. Without resources to pay Internet service providers for preferential treatment, many entrepreneurs won’t be able to compete.
When my co-founders and I started General Assembly in 2011, we quickly found ourselves competing with a host of online and offline incumbents, many with ample funds and an incentive to keep companies like General Assembly out of education. Had the FCC’s rules been in place at our founding, it would have been much more difficult for Brad, Matt, Adam and me to found and grow General Assembly. It’s hard enough to start a business and find resources for the important things – in our case building new and better courses for our students and supporting our graduates – without diverting funds to Internet service providers to enjoy service on par with well-funded competitors.
Moreover, many of our students are entrepreneurs and many more find employment at new entrepreneurial ventures after graduating from our courses. By privileging large and entrenched incumbents, this rule would have potentially disastrous effects on our students, discouraging entrepreneurial activity and limiting the creation of jobs in entrepreneurial ventures. I’m upset by the prospect of a rule that would make it much harder for our students to pursue the work they love, be it their own entrepreneurial venture, a job at a startup or anything else that requires an even playing field on the Internet.
The Internet has always been a place of openness and equality, a place where a blog can speak as loudly as an established news source, where one person with one idea can change the world. Discriminatory pricing practices threaten our students, our business and businesses like ours, the general public, and the economic well-being of our country. As co-founder and CEO of General Assembly, I urge the FCC not to play policy roulette with the lifeblood of entrepreneurship in this country.