Posts from Politics

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.

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.

Gerrymandering’s Coming Home To Roost

So this week we saw the first time since the 19th century that a House leader lost in a primary. Some will attribute this to Cantor’s support of immigration reform. Some will see this as the ascendancy of the Tea Party on the right. I suppose both of those are true.

But I think we are seeing something else. Gerrymandering is coming home to roost.

We have turned our electoral maps into something that look like a warped jigsaw puzzle and we have districts where only Republicans can win and we have districts where only Democrats can win.

This leads to a situation where the more moderate candidate in a primary is vulnerable and the more extreme candidate is at an advantage. And we see this effect play out in the House Of Representatives.

Right now, this is more of an issue for the Republicans, where they are being driven more and more to the right every day. And that may well keep them in control of the House for a long time, but may also keep them out of the White House just as long. Because extremist positions help win primaries and primary winners take the general election in a gerrymandered district. But national elections, like the Presidential election are not won on the extremes.

This all leads to gridlock and posturing and a federal government that is more political than practical. Which is a bad thing in the long run.

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.

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.

Safe Harbors

A person we are working with on Net Neutrality policy wrote this email to me recently and I answered it as follows:

The Email Question:

Many people in D.C. understand that start-ups without significant outside funding won’t be able to pay those fees and won’t be competitive. However, most people think that if a company is able to get venture capital, then it can use the VC funds to pay these fees.

Fred’s post suggests that VCs won’t invest if they fear that the start-up will have to compete with established companies that can pay these fees. Can you help me understand what exactly the problem is? In other words, why can’t VCs simply pay for the access fees and thereby make the application competitive with established companies that can pay? Why would they choose not to invest instead?

 

My Reply:

the problem, in a nutshell, has to do with how much capital you have to invest upfront to find out if the product or service the startup has created is going to work as a business

on today’s internet, there are no gatekeepers to pay so you can put something on the web or in the app stores for almost nothing and then see if they can get to a million users or more
if they can do that, then you can invest the tens of millions you need to build a real business
this process of trial and error happens over and over again and is the essence of the internet and mobile startup and VC business
one of the reasons, for example, you see so few music startups is that those startups have to negotiate huge upfront payments to the music industry in order to even launch a service. no entrepreneur or investor would invest millions up front when the likelihood is 90% or greater that it will be a failure. so the entrepreneurs either launch without licenses and risk getting sued or they don’t even try
that is what will happen in high bandwidth content apps if this FCC rulemaking goes in the direction we fear it will go
The answer to this quandry is “safe harbors”. I argue for them all over the place. In content licensing. In telecom policy. In banking policy. If we had a general bias in our society to let early stage startups try things and see if they work before we worry about compliance we would see a lot more innovation.