Imagine a world where someone outside of your organisation gets to decide just how important your business-critical data is to you, and how quickly you should be able to access it.

That’s the road US Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai, recently appointed by US President Donald Trump, wants to take the US, and thereby the rest of the world, down. Pai has announced plans to scrap the open internet protection granted in 2015 under the Barak Obama administration.

The 2015 law that Pai wants to abolish makes internet service providers treat all data as equal, regardless of its content, where it has come from, where it is going to and where it is stored. This is known as net neutrality and, in practice, means Company-X data is given the same priority as Microsoft data and US Government data.

It stands to reason.

The data I require as a Company-X director is priceless to me, but worthless to anyone else unless, perhaps, they are in a competing business. The same goes for the Microsoft executive, or the American civil service employee, who are primarily interested in the data they need to do their jobs. Far be it for someone else, external to our businesses, to make a call on just how important a particular data packet is.

The law forbids an external agency, such as an internet service provider, to arbitrarily prioritize the delivery of data over the internet. This is because, in each of the examples given, the agency’s and their client’s own data is more important than anyone else’s. To work any other way would hinder free enterprise in internet-connected business in every part of the world.

The internet slowed to an almost grinding halt on July 21 as a result of the protests against Pai’s proposal, as tech giants like Amazon, Google and Twitter responded.

Spinning wheels of death and blocked notifications appeared on the websites of such tech giants. They wanted to demonstrate how the US Federal Communications Commission’s plans to scrap net neutrality laws would be bad for business. Not just in the US but, since the internet knows no boundaries, around the world too. This was a stark reminder that so many of the internet-based technologies that we, in New Zealand, depend upon were either developed in the US or are hosted there.

So, how much is the internet worth to your business? It’s worth quite a bit to me.

Most of the software we develop in the Waikato, for businesses in New Zealand and overseas, is delivered to our clients over the internet. We mostly build business-critical software accessed by our clients around the world on an internet-connected computing device with via a web browser like Apple Safari or Google Chrome. We also build apps for our clients, downloaded through the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Pai’s proposal must be defeated or business, and private internet users too, will suffer greatly, plunging us a step backwards in the information age.