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Arkansas Business
Internet Vital to Arkansas’ Growth (Michael Beckerman Commentary)
Posted 01/28/2013

The Internet is a catalyst for job creation and an amazing accelerator for innovation. The Internet not only drives economic growth across the globe, but also increases the success of small businesses and job creators across the U.S. As our nation continues its economic recovery, Arkansas has a vested interest in protecting the Internet and its ability to bolster economic growth.

Washington is often locked in partisan gridlock that is heavy on rhetoric but light on solutions. Congress can reach bipartisan solutions by supporting policies that promote a free and innovative Internet. We urge all lawmakers at every level of government — from mayors to state representatives to our federal representatives in Washington — to press for pro-Internet legislation that rewards entrepreneurs who create jobs right here in Arkansas.

Elected officials from Arkansas have already taken action. When Congress attempted to censor the Internet through two misguided bills, the Arkansas congressional delegation fought back. These bills spurred an expansive grassroots movement, illustrating the importance of an innovative, free and decentralized Internet.

And again, later that same year, when the United Nations attempted to expand its authority over the Internet, U.S. delegates, backed by support from Arkansas leaders and many international allies, protested by walking out of treaty talks.

Sens. Mark Pryor and John Boozman have supported Internet freedom. Now, all of the members of the Arkansas congressional delegation must continue this fight to protect the Internet ecosystem. We appreciate the efforts of the Arkansas delegation and encourage all policymakers to continue working in a bipartisan manner to protect Internet freedom and promote local economic development.

Internet jobs are no longer found solely in Silicon Valley; they are on Main Street America, in every state. The Internet is a critical tool for economic success as it creates jobs in Arkansas, inspires entrepreneurs of tomorrow and promotes Arkansas small businesses.

It helps retailers like Gearhead, Nativ and Country Outfitters expand their businesses to markets across the country. It also helps working moms and students achieve success. For instance, a central Arkansas mother of three sells multi-med therapy skin care products across the state as an independent consultant with Rodan & Fields, an entirely e-commerce-based national direct sales company. Dental student William Wilson pays his school tuition by using profits from Ruf Nek, his dog collar startup business in northwest Arkansas.

The Internet affects many of Arkansas’ economic sectors. Thanks to increased online ad campaigns and help from the online community, Arkansas’ tourism industry is booming. The state’s tourism website earned a No. 1 market share among neighboring states with website visits of more than 4.7 million last year, positioning it in the top 10 among tourism websites nationwide.

The Internet also contributes to the education sector by increasing access to education and enabling the University of Arkansas’ global campus with online undergraduate and graduate courses for anyone in the world to experience.

Internet policy must be a priority for Arkansas. We believe that to continue to protect Arkansans — your jobs, your businesses, your Internet — we must pave the way for a free and innovative Internet. We must not stifle the Internet’s potential; rather, we must help accelerate its growth for America’s future.