A common tactic of the telcos and the cable companies has been to portray the Net Neutrality movement as the pet project of the e-commerce giants, Google, eBay, Amazon. But the companies who stand to lose the most from plans for a two-tiered Internet are small entities like a Texas company called Data Foundry. Data Foundry first started talking to elected officials about Net Neutrality four years ago, before it was even called Net Neutrality. They even convinced the Republican-controlled Texas Senate to include Net Neutrality provisions in a recent bill creating statewide video franchising (the provision was struck in conference committee under pressure from telco and cable lobbyists).
When the Yokubaitis family started the company with $10,000 of their own money in 1994, they were one of the first commercial Internet providers in the country. Dot com boomers that survived the dot com bust, they now run several data centers and provide commercial Internet access, giving Texas companies a direct link to the Internet backbone through their four Network Access Points (NAPs). They understand what's at stake here more than most: the viability of small, innovative companies like theirs and those of their customers. In the open marketplace of the Internet, these companies can go toe to toe with the biggest companies, but they're at a disadvantage in Congress, where the telcos and cable companies have been lobbying for decades.
Data Foundry saw early on that by setting up a NAP in San Antonio, they could save money connecting their Texas customers to other customers in-state, since they wouldn't have to pay transit fees to other networks for carrying their bits to their destinations. They now run four NAPs, in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Austin. The problem is that in most places in Texas, there's an effective duopoly for consumer broadband access, (SBC or Verizon for DSL, and the local cable franchise–if broadband is available at all). In a non-neutral Internet, these companies can determine what's available to Texas consumers.
Imagine you're KXAN, Austin NBC affiliate and a customer of Data Foundry. You decide you want offer a video stream of your weather forecasts from your website; your potential audience is mostly in Texas so Data Foundry is a great choice. Unfortunately, SBC has an agreement going way back with the Weather Channel. There are no net-neutrality regulations, so SBC decides they're going to make your weather a little slower for all of their customers, the Weather Channel's a little faster. Unless, that is, you pay them for prioritized access.
In a non-neutral Internet, if any of Data Foundry's one thousand corporate customers in Texas–a deli , a university, a home decorating store –has a new idea for how to reach their customers using the Internet, they'll have to run it by the local broadband monopoly/duopoly first. The Texas Senate realized that net neutrality wasn't a partisan issue or regulation unnecessarily burdening industry. It's about preserving the market, about creating the opportunity for more innovation and more Data Foundrys, rather than letting the telcos and cable companies strangle them in the crib.