Menendez, small business owners argue for restoration of net neutrality

BY Briana Vannozzi, Correspondent |

Thirty percent of the total operating budget at Elements Truffles, a New Jersey based chocolate maker, goes strictly to online marketing and running the website. Twenty percent of all sales comes from internet purchases which is why co-founders Alak Vasa and Kushal Choksi are worried about potential changes to federal net neutrality laws.

“For us it’s very important to have a level playing field,” said Choksi.

They welcomed Sen. Bob Menendez to their chocolate making facility at Kearny Point, a hub for entrepreneurs and tech start-ups. It was a fitting backdrop for the Democratic senator to make a final push before the Senate votes this week to restore the Obama-era rules.

“The long-term impact of repealing net neutrality will likely be higher prices for consumers, slower speeds online and a higher barrier to entry for small businesses and entrepreneurs,” Menendez said.

In December, the Republican lead FCC voted to end the statute creating equal treatment for all internet service providers, citing a free market as the goal. But advocates argue ISPs [internet service providers] could block or slow down content, creating tiered networks, in favor of larger corporations able to pay higher fees for faster service. Democrats in the U.S. Senate are poised to pass a resolution under what’s known as the Congressional Review Act, to overturn it.

“Forty-nine Democrats, all 49 Democrats in the U.S. Senate, have signed to the petition to have this vote and are committed to voting for it. One Republican, Susan Collins, has committed to voting for it,” Menendez said.

“If a hosting service increases the price because the ISP is charging them more, everything will trickle down to us so I may not be able to sell a service that I see for $100 to a brokerage because now my hosting service may be $5,000 a month,” said Alcides Aguasvivas, co-owner of Pix-l Graphx.

A number of small business owners shared their reasons for favoring net neutrality regulations. But opponents say it’s much ado about nothing — a misconception that internet service providers will be allowed to throttle service because of other laws already on the books to protect consumer demand.

The Senate is slated to vote Wednesday. Menendez says they have the simple majority needed, 50 votes because of Sen. John McCain’s likely medical absence. It’s unclear whether the House intends to pass this resolution, and even if they do, it’s unlikely President Trump will sign it.