Net Neutrality and the Cannabis Industry
The net neutrality debate is currently at its most fiery and I thought we should take a look at what it is and the impact it could have on businesses, including those within the canna-industry.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is the internet’s guiding principle: It preserves our right to communicate freely online.
Net Neutrality means an internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that ISPs should provide us with open networks — and shouldn’t block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company shouldn’t decide who you call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn’t interfere with the content you view or post online.
Without Net Neutrality, cable and phone companies could carve the internet into fast and slow lanes. An ISP could slow down its competitors’ content or block political opinions it disagreed with. ISPs could charge extra fees to the few content companies that could afford to pay for preferential treatment — relegating everyone else to a slower tier of service. This would destroy the open internet
One way to describe this is – information flowing via Niagara Falls, or via a garden hose. Currently, you are free to use the internet via an open network, which is free from censorship, rate increases – and you are given the same resources as anyone else. However, changes to net neutrality could mean the beginning of a censored-internet, and the establishment of “data lanes”; open lanes, vs throttled, slower lanes all controlled by ISPs.
Companies like Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google are all in favor of net neutrality, while broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast are fully behind killing it.
CannaPlanners is a start-up internet company; we rely entirely on the sole-functionality of the internet, which is to communicate freely with one another. We want the websites we build to be accessible to anyone, and not impacted by broadband companies who are looking to redefine the internet to fit their business model. There’s no question that abandoning net neutrality will have a huge impact on small businesses everywhere, no matter the industry, but to what does this mean for the canna-industry?
Where are our Giants?
Our industry is new, but we’ve seen some companies experience rather exponential growth since cannabis laws have started to shift. Companies like WeedMaps, Massroots, Leafly and High Times Magazine, have turned into social media and internet giants and, in turn, have helped much smaller businesses gain significant exposure. Now imagine if your data plan was throttled and you load speeds plummeted when you wanted to check out the WeedMaps Instagram feed, or the YouTube video that High Times posted never really loaded, or strain reviews on Leafly were inaccessible and you got… gasp… mids.
It could even get a bit more 1984 than that. Let’s say you had a Attorney General who still held Nixonian-era opinions on the “War on Drugs” and wanted to enforce censorship upon ISPs. This level of control would be totally achievable if net neutrality is removed.
Change.org is among the organizations spearheading the effort to save net neutrality. Their Director of Campaigns and Partnerships, Jonathan Perri, pointed to the struggles cannabis efforts have already had to deal with just around regular campaign practices online.
“Without strong net neutrality rules, it’s completely possible that an ISP could block the website for a political campaign or online petition that they disagree with,” Perri said. “Considering that campaigns for marijuana legalization have run into online advertising troubles before, net neutrality is important for these movements.
As the cannabis industry starts creating its own corporate giants, it’s imperative to the survival of the industry that they take a stance on all levels of advocacy, starting, of course, with legalization, but including issues like net neutrality. Companies such as CannaPlanners will live or die by how net neutrality shapes out, and we hope to stand alongside all of our tech partners, small businesses, and friends within the cannabis industry to ensure that the internet remains open.