Utah’s Dynamic Technology Economy is Due to a Free and Open Internet

Constituents meet with Rep. John Curtis (UT-3), second-from-left, at his Provo, UT office on Sep. 17 to urge him to sign the CRA discharge petition and restore Net Neutrality.

By Clint Berry, Co-Founder & CTO of Weave, Lehi, Utah (3rd Congressional District)

There is something special happening in Utah. A new batch of technology companies have hit billion-dollar valuations, and there are more on the horizon. The startup ecosystem is thriving. Companies like Canopy, Podium, and Divvy have raised large rounds of capital and are adding jobs to the economy in Utah every day.

Utah’s dynamic technology economy is due to a free and open Internet, an internet free from ‘gatekeepers’ deciding what can be shared, what can be written, and what can be created.

As co-founder and CTO of Weave, a fast-growing software company in Lehi, I am lucky to be a part of the amazing growth and change in Utah. In my role as CTO, I am constantly thinking about innovation and how we can move faster. One of the keys to innovating fast in a software company is removing those gatekeepers wherever possible. At Weave, we create fully autonomous teams that design, build, and launch new products without anyone slowing them down. Jeff Bezos said it best: “Even well-meaning gatekeepers slow innovation.”

Now, the very thing that has enabled hundreds of thousands of new businesses to be created is under attack. Former Verizon employee Ajit Pai and the FCC have rolled back the decades-old net neutrality rules that required all internet traffic to be treated equally by big Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Comcast. Thanks to Pai, giant cable companies can now discriminate or filter what their customers have access to on the Internet. In other words, they can be gatekeepers not just for a single company but for the entire internet.

This is a wildly unpopular move and will hurt Utah technology companies.

Over 80% of people support Net Neutrality, including 3 out of 4 Republicans. A couple of weeks ago Ajit Pai, the chairman of the FCC, came to visit Utah and insultingly claimed that the public sentiment opposing him was “misinformed.” Poll after poll shows that he is on the wrong side of the issue, as do the statements of leaders in the technology industry. Over 200 US digital companies, including Twitter and Airbnb, have written an open letter denouncing the loss of the equality needed for a free market and for innovation. Even Ronald Reagan’s son wrote that “Conservatives should back net neutrality…If you want to protect free and unfettered access to the internet and have a check against several powerful corporations controlling the blood flow of the internet, let your Congressman know you back net neutrality.”

The US Senate passed a bipartisan resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) overturning the FCC. In order for it to be effective, the House needs to do the same. Every Congressperson in Utah, particularly my representative John Curtis, should sign the petition allowing a CRA vote in the House.

A decision not to support the CRA would be a decision to slow down Utah’s thriving economy.

Utah’s Dynamic Technology Economy is Due to a Free and Open Internet was originally published in Demand Progress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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