FCC Net Neutrality Proposal Could Affect MT Businesses - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

FCC Net Neutrality Proposal Could Affect MT Businesses

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MISSOULA -

A controversial vote could change the cyber world as we know it, and even send ripples through Montana businesses.

The Federal Communications Commission voted to move forward with a proposal that would allow broadband providers to charge large companies for high speed internet. Many small business owners with a large internet presence worry the higher price for quality internet could hurt them too.

The Montana Chocolate Company's owner, Robin Wright-Millerd said the chocolate business has its slow seasons.

"Chocolate is a very seasonal business by nature," Wright-Millerd said.

To keep business booming year-round, Wright-Millerd's business relies heavily on the company's website, which brings in customers from across the nation.

"What this does for us is our ability to have strong presence year-round, because of the internet. We can ship nationwide all over 50 states," Wright-Millerd said.

Now some fear a vote made by the FCC on Thursday against so-called "net-neutrality"could hurt businesses with a strong online presence.

"The one concern we'd have at The Montana Chocolate Company, because we do have a strong internet sales, would be that this is going to pass on additional cost to us, because of taxes or fees or if this is going to pass on costs to the consumers," Wright-Millerd said.

"Net neutrality" is the principal arguing all internet traffic should be treated equally.

The FCC's vote compromises net neutrality by allowing internet service providers to charge websites for faster and more reliable delivery of their traffic to users. Critics worry companies that rely on the internet will have to pay up or their websites will be left with slow traffic. If the proposal passes, Wright-Millerd said she'd be worried about her customer's shopping experience.

"If they're needing faster internet to be shopping on our interface, then they'll have to pay more for internet if that's something they want. You know slower internet is something that could impact their shopping experience," Wright-Millerd said.

Another round of votes will still be done before the proposal moves forward, so Wright-Millerd said she's keeping a wait-and-see attitude.

"I hope to see that this resolve itself in a way that's beneficial to small businesses and the consumers that utilize small business," Wright-Millerd said.

The proposal is now open for public comment for the next four months, and could be changed before a final vote. If the FCC votes to move forward with the proposal, the case could go to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will have the final say.

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