Posts from policy

Today, September 10th, Is A Day Of Protest

When you come to AVC for the first time today, you will be met with a “modal” that shows the site loading slowly. This is my way of participating in a day of protest to send a message to the FCC and others in government that I don’t want to see an Internet where some sites can pay to load more quickly than others.

We’ve discussed this issue so many times at AVC that it’s old hat to most of us. Many of you don’t see things the way I do. I understand and respect that. But today, I am showing solidarity with everyone who sees it my way.

The modal will be gone tomorrow in case it annoys you.

Next Wednesday Is The Internet Slowdown

We’ve talked a lot here at AVC about Net Neutrality. I hate that term because it’s got so much baggage now that it is essentially meaningless to me. What I want to see is a framework that everyone agrees to (application developers, bandwidth providers, last mile access providers, and the regulators) that says you can’t prioritize one bit over another in the last mile access network and you can’t charge application developers to deliver their bits to the end user.

This issue is coming to a head at the FCC as the comment period is ending and some sort of decision will be made this fall. So next Wednesday, September 10th, is the Internet’s opportunity to stand up and be heard.

If you are with me on this issue, please consider joining the Internet Slowdown campaign next Wednesday. There are all sorts of ways you can do this. You can change your avatars on your social media profiles, you can send push notifications if you operate a mobile app, you can put a slow loading graphic on your blog or website (there are WordPress widgets if you are on WordPress like I am).

And if you still aren’t convinced, please read Chad Dickerson’s piece in Wired this week on why this issue is important to businesses and everyone who uses the Internet to reach their customers and/or audience.

The Scourge Of Zero Rating

It seems like every week I read another article about a mobile carrier offering some incredible deal to eat the mobile data costs you rack up using certain apps.

The most recent was the news that Sprint will sell at data plan that “only connects to Facebook and Twitter”.

Many on the Internet are up in arms about “net neutrality” amid concerns that the wireline carriers will discriminate between or block applications on their networks. I’m a supporter of net neutrality regulations, but it’s worth pointing out that wireline carriers haven’t done a lot of discriminating and blocking on their networks over the past 20 years of the commercial internet.

And yet in mobile data, there is discrimination and blocking all over the place. The main kind of discrimination is called “zero rating” in which a mobile carrier makes a deal with certain applications to eat the mobile data charges a user racks up when using certain apps. A good example of that is T-Mobile’s deal with a bunch of music apps announced back in June.

The pernicious thing about zero rating is that it is marketed as a consumer friendly offering by the mobile carrier – “we are not charging you for data when you are on Spotify”.

But what all of this zero rating activity is setting up is a mobile internet that looks a lot more like cable TV than our wide open Internet. Soon a startup will have to negotiate a zero rating plan before launching because mobile app customers will be trained to only use apps that are zero rated on their network.

I strongly encourage policy makers, policy wonks, internet activists, and anyone who cares about protecting an open internet for all to take a hard look at zero rating. Like all the best scourges, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Why The GOP Should Embrace Net Neutrality

The politics of Net Neutrality (ie preventing the creation of fast lanes and slow lanes on the Internet) in Washington is pretty simple. Democrats are largely for Net Neutrality. Republicans are against it. The reason is simple. Net Neutrality has been sold to Washington by the telecommunications lobby as a regulatory overreach. And in that context, the politics are simple.

But if one thinks of the way the commercial Internet has operated for roughly 20 years, it has operated as a level playing field where everyone’s bits are treated the same. So Net Neutrality is just embracing the way it has always been.

Another way to look at this debate is that big corporate interests (Verizon, ATT, Comcast, etc) have been lobbying for the right to build fast lanes on the commercial Internet for almost as long as the Internet has been around and that investment is finally paying off. They have effectively bought their way into the halls of government and are now looking for their payday.

And the GOP, particularly its Tea Party wing, should find that abhorrent. As Dave Brat, who beat Eric Cantor, said:

I’m an economist. I’m pro-business. I’m pro-big business making profits. But what I’m absolutely against is big business in bed with big government. And that’s the problem.

I am headed to DC today to meet a few people and make this point. Wish me luck.

This Is What Happens When You Let A Monopoly Own The Last Mile

From Business Insider:

Verizon won’t be able to hit its deadline to bring its FiOS fiber internet service to all residences in New York’s five boroughs by the end of June 2014.

and

In 2008, Verizon made an agreement to bring FiOS to any New York resident who requests it within six months.

I’ve been asking Verizon to bring FIOS to the condo apartment building the Gotham Gal and I built since 2007. They keep promising and they keep breaking those promises. That’s what monopolies do.

I hope the folks to run the FCC, the Federal Government, and local governments realize that Verizon are not to be trusted and neither are their lobbyists. They are the worst. I can’t believe we allow them and their brethren to continue to control the last mile access to the Internet here in the US.

The Veterans Affair

I was down in Virginia visiting my parents this past week. We talked a bit about the latest VA scandal. My parents spent their adult life in the military. My dad as an army officer. My mom as an army wife. They know a bit about this topic.

My dad was saying that injured soldiers in recent wars survive a lot more frequently and as a result we have more injured and less deceased soldiers. But we have not, as a country, made the required investment to care for the increased volume of injured veterans.

There is an editorial in today’s New York Times from a veteran named Colby Buzzell. It is worth reading. Colby says:

Politicians and many hawkish Americans are quick to send our sons and daughters to go off to fight in wars on foreign soil, but reluctant to pay the cost.

On this memorial day, it is important to remember both the deceased and surviving veterans. Their sacrifices are the price of freedom and we should commit to support them to the utmost. That we do not is a national shame.

A Sad Day For Patent Reform

I received this note in my inbox yesterday:

As you have possibly heard, earlier today, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, announced that he is tabling patent reform legislation that was supposed to come up for a vote tomorrow

This is a sad (hopefully temporary) end for the litigation reform efforts that had passed the House by an incredible, bipartisan margin and that the President mentioned in his most recent State of the Union Address.

In the last few days, we were seeing good compromise language coming out of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, specifically Senators Cornyn and Schumer, and were optimistic the bill would come to a vote quickly. But the committee chair can unilaterally stop legislation and Leahy has opted to do so. For what it’s worth, we’re hearing that we was pressured to do so by Senator Reid.

This means we likely won’t be seeing fee shifting and other important measures that would have helped protect startups from patent trolls this year.

This pisses me off. And I am not the only one who is upset about this. Rackspace has a great post up on their blog today.

Here is the deal. Information technology startups are probably spending hundreds of millions of dollars collectively on an annual basis fighting off patent trolls. This is a tax on innovation and, I would argue, borderline theft. It must come to an end.

#StopTheSlowLane

Today is a big day for the Internet as we know it. The FCC will meet today to consider a proposed notice of rulemaking that could, if adopted, change some fundamental rules about how the last mile of the Internet works.

I’ve written about this issue a lot here at AVC, but if you are new to it, please read this post and this post. That should get you up to speed (no pun intended) on what is going on.

So I am participating in a virtual protest movement called #StopTheSlowLane today.

You probably got an annoying interstitial when you came to AVC this morning that made you wait and wait while AVC loaded.

I’m running the Slow Lane Widget via a WordPress plugin on AVC today and maybe for a few more days. If you would like to put the widget (javascript or WP plugin) on your site, you can get it here.

I’ve seen this widget at a few places around the Internet over the past 24 hours. I am hoping this spreads to other bloggers and ideally mainstream websites. If the mainstream Internet user can see what a slow lane really looks like, I think this issue will be clarified for everyone and the FCC will do the right thing. Which is to reclassify last mile Internet as a telecommunications service that is regulated under Title II. Last mile Internet is like water and electricity and should be regulated as such.

Video Of The Week: Albert Wenger at DLD NYC

My partner Albert gave a talk at DLD NYC last week that covered some interesting topics regarding the future of our economy and our society. It’s a short talk (only 12mins) and well worth watching.

The Open Internet Letter

I realize I’ve been writing a lot this week about the FCC’s decision next week on new rules for the last mile Internet here in the US. I promise I will return to the regularly scheduled programming soon. But this is a big issue and we need to keep up the pressure on the FCC to do the right thing here.

Today, about fifty leading VCs have signed onto a letter to the FCC asking them to keep the Internet free of fast lanes and slow lanes.

We are hoping that more angel investors and VCs will want to sign onto this letter today before we send it to the FCC tomorrow.

We pulled this together quickly over the past 24 hours, and weren’t able to directly reach as many VCs and other investors as we would have liked, so will gladly welcome additional signatories throughout the day today before we formally file this with the FCC tonight. Email nick [at] usv [dot] com if you’d like to join.

This debate is just picking up, and it will be critical for everyone who cares about innovation on the Internet to wrap their heads around this issue, and engage on it, as the FCC runs its rulemaking process through the summer and fall.