I've never liked the term net neutrality to be honest. And in the wake of the FCC's legal loss to Comcast over bit torrent throttling, the net neutrality camp (which I am very much in) is on its heels. This post is not about that decision or its ramifications, which I think are significant. It's about the need to frame the issue in a different way.
My partner Albert got me thinking about Internet Freedom with his post the other morning. Internet Freedom is about sustaining the era of permissionless innovation that has characterized the first fifteen years of the commercial Internet in this country and brought us thousands of new big profitable companies, millions of jobs, and a vast array of new services and devices that have changed our lives and made them better.
Our firm, Union Square Ventures, focuses most of our time on finding companies, investing in them, and working with the entrepreneurs to build them. But a few years ago, we made the decision to invest a small amount of our time on public policy issues, like net neutrality, patent reform, spectrum reform, immigration reform, and a handful of other ones. All of this and more is about Internet Freedom. Our business requires it. If we lose Internet Freedom, we won't have any companies we would want to invest in and we'll close up shop and move on with our lives. That would be our loss.
The bigger loss would be to our society which has benefitted mightily from Internet Freedom and will continue to benefit as long as we don't lock everything down and close everything up. So as Albert says, "the price of Internet freedom too is eternal vigilance."
We'll be stepping up our efforts inside our firm and outside our firm in this area. It's so very important.