Dear FCC: Mavenlink and the Level Playing Field of Net Neutrality

At Mavenlink, we believe an open Internet is critical for the success of not only software providers and future innovation, but also you, our clients and customers. The Internet and the World Wide Web have opened up incredible possibilities for the remote and independent work many of us engage in. The "openness" of the Internet (otherwise known as "net neutrality") is currently under siege by the FCC and Chairman Wheeler. In this proposed dystopian future, companies will have to pay Internet Service Providers for "fast lane" access or be relegated to the "slow" section of the Internet. The common example of this is: Netflix could pay Comcast extra money to ensure their video streams are faster than any other content provider on the Comcast network. The general result of a non-neutral Internet is that would prevent new innovation to be on a level playing field with incumbent players. As further reading, the EFF has published a great guide to what the FCC is proposing.

As many startups, small businesses, and large businesses have, we've gotten involved by voicing our opinion directly to the FCC. You can read my letter below. I'd also like to call on all of you to get involved. To its credit, the FCC is currently allowing for comments/letters to be submitted directly to them. At the time of this writing, over 700,000 individuals and businesses have voiced their opinion in support of full net neutrality.

Read more at the FCC site for submitting your own comments, or just email openinternet@fcc.gov to join us in voicing your support for a level playing field.

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW

Washington D.C. 20554July 15, 2014Dear Chairman Wheeler,My letter to you is regarding Proceeding #14-28.In 2008, Ray Grainger, Sean Crafts, and I started Mavenlink with a vision to change the way people and companies do business. We witnessed the massive financial and economic disruption and were convinced that the American, and global, labor force had forever changed. Mavenlink is now a leading software application in our market with over 600,000 users in 100 countries. Net neutrality and a level playing field is not only essential for us to bring our innovations to the market, but it is also critically important to the customers our technology platform serves.The American labor force is changing. Gone are the days of the 9-5 workforce, working at a single company for 30 years, retiring, and receiving a pension. Today, we have an increasingly mobile, distributed, connected, flexible, and free workforce, not only choosing where they work on a full-time basis, but also freelancing to companies in need of flexible labor.The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, CNNMoney.com, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics have backed this shift up with data. Estimates range from 20-30% of U.S. workers being independent contractors, freelancers, temps, or part-time. In all data sets, these statistics have trended up since 2008 and are estimated to continue to trend up, possibly to 40% by 2020, even as the economy is improving and full-time employment is beginning to return. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that this 20-30% of the labor force accounts for an outsized 40-50% of labor spend. For companies, the price of flexibility is increased short-term cost. This value exchange is crucial in times of uncertainty.We are seeing this labor shift first-hand in our business. Companies and individuals are demanding tools like Mavenlink to conduct business with one another.One of the major factors in this labor shift is the open and free Internet. Anyone with a broadband connection can do business with anyone else in the world. Everyone has access to the same technology and tools as everyone else: project management software, file sharing, screen sharing, and CRM, just to name a few of the common tools. The world wide web has been an incredibly democratizing force, allowing small groups of freelancers to compete with large, incumbent staffing and consulting firms.Mavenlink allows service providers and the businesses they serve to manage projects and conduct business online. Small and large organizations alike applaud us for our all-in-one-place approach to allowing them to take work from proposal stage all the way through delivery and payment. Part of our rapid growth can be attributed to our ability to compete with incumbent players on price and service level, winning on the merits of our creative vision for how work is done. This is in stark contrast to the world created with Internet “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” where incumbent players have an edge on the challengers.Government policy needs to encourage free and open competition on the Internet. It is crucial that broadband providers be reclassified as telecommunications services under Title II of the Communications Act. This step is important to ensure the FCC would have the legal authority to regulate broadband and maintain the non-discriminatory, level playing field of today.Paid prioritization would not only hurt service providers like us, but in doing so, would also be hurting a large percentage of the U.S. labor force who rely on the open web to compete and win globally. As successful as many of our customers are, I speak with them every day and know one of their biggest challenges is managing the costs and margins in their businesses. They simply cannot afford the increased costs or additional market uncertainty a non-neutral web would lead to. All of the jobs and innovation that the U.S. Government purports to help facilitate in the economy would be deeply affected by changing the current level playing field.Over the last few months, hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals have spoken up in support of full net neutrality. Chairman Wheeler, please take the necessary steps to ensure the Internet stays a free and open platform for innovation. Do not allow for market uncertainty: strike hard and fast with straightforward legislation and a reclassification under Title II of the Communications Act.

Best Regards,
Roger Neel
Chief Technology Officer | Mavenlink, Inc.

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