I recently had an informal meeting with one of our Ohio-based soccer tournament directors and the issue most raised during our conversation was the various ways we helped bring value to their event was by being available as human support. As I watched the FCC take a vote to repeal Net Neutrality on Dec 14, 2017, I couldn’t help thinking how that decision could potentially affect the soccer tournament industry, which has fully embraced the internet as the de facto platform to market, communicate, register and manage games through websites and apps.
I crafted this letter to my elected Ohio representatives with that conversation still fresh in my head.
Since 1999, TourneyCentral has been the front door for close to a million soccer players, their families and fans each year. Furthermore, since we are based in a military town with WPAFB as an integral member of our community, our soccer tournament websites have afforded parents who found themselves stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world to engage actively with their kids as they played in soccer tournaments. We have stories we could share; they are heartwarming.
Our business depends on a stable and predictable access to the internet.
As a small business incorporated and based in Ohio — one that provides jobs, tax revenue and increases the economic impact of other small businesses — I am concerned about the cost of providing affordable access to the tournament websites for our tournament directors. But more importantly, I am concerned that my customers have ready access to human tech support when they most need it, so they can provide a quality tournament-going experience for their guest teams, players, families and fans.
As a company and as an active member of the soccer community, we do not support the repeal of NetNeutrality. The Net Neutrality rules are not perfect, but anything less than the protections and access they currently afford the soccer community is untenable.
As a company that believes strongly in the superiority of human support over chat bots and AI, we also seek out suppliers of hosting and other services that share our values. We believe that even as the line-item cost of purchasing these services is higher, it reduces our overall costs due to increased productivity working with skilled people.
Our soccer customers (many who are volunteers who do not develop technology) also want and need human-supported help for their tournament technology. TourneyCentral provides this much-needed service. With the FCC’s repeal of Net Neutrality in yesterday’s vote, we will most likely be forced to continue to seek out providers and services that reduce our costs elsewhere so we can continue to provide the human touch our customers tell us they need and want.
We recognize that the trends are towards automation and we’re not fighting evolution. However, at some point, we as a society need to recognize when we need to provide a human touch for human activities. The goal here is a balance between automating those things that computers do well with human skills that humans do better. Few things are more human-centric (or as satisfying) for us than talking a tournament director through a critical tech process at 11pm on a Friday night, with only a few hours before they host a soccer tournament for thousands of players, their families and fans, and the local community.
It is our official position that our elected representatives introduce and pass legislation that protects access to all of the legal parts of the internet, regardless of content.
While access to the internet is foremost a human issue for us, it is also a business issue. The lack of open access to the internet endangers not only the soccer tournament business and the soccer community, it stands to limit all organized youth sports, including football, basketball and the most American sport, baseball. It also endangers the small businesses that rely on their support.
Soccer is a welcoming, benevolent community. Help us continue this fine tradition of supporting and engaging in our communities through sport by keeping this in mind as you take up votes regarding the repeal Net Neutrality many in our community now rely on for access to their teams. For many, their soccer team is their life’s purpose.
I understand that national laws operate at a 30,000 ft level. I just wanted to give you a small example of the unintended consequences of these regulations at a ground zero level. In the whole scheme of what Net Neutrality means for the entire internet, TourneyCentral is a tear in a rainstorm. But for that one grandparent who only wishes to see his grandkids play at a local event, it means everything. That is what drives us and what I hope sticks in your mind as you review potential legislation regarding Net Neutrality.
I urge you to vote with this in mind; to think not only of the wider arc of the health of the internet, but also the health of the businesses that rely it, including your own Ohio-based, TourneyCentral.