Internet Freedom

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.

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#Politics#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. Dan Ramsden

    If net neutrality or internet freedom does not pass, is the issue really one of terminating innovation or merely changing business models? The assumption is that web services should be free to the consumer – but at a point, this will increase the consumer’s telecom bill for high usage. If on the other hand, web services are paid for by the consumer, which would enable web businesses in turn to pay for telecom share, then the consumer’s telecom bill should diminish. So, isn’t it a matter of degree and how the proceeds are allocated among the various parties? The consumer pays either way… and probably the same amount, all in.

    1. fredwilson

      internet freedom has nothing to do with pricingit’s about the freedom to develop and run an application on any device andany network

      1. kidmercury

        not true. if you are defining internet freedom as net neutrality, a definition i obviously disagree with but let’s roll with it for now, than the cost is net neutrality regulation/enforcement. this means tax dollars. it also means whatever fees emerge to ensure compliance with regulators. so, it is very much related to pricing.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Just out of curiosity: Is the opposite of net neutrality controlling the online borders, or is that not the worry? It’s a lot cheaper to police your internet if you make other countries help pay for the monitoring of incoming traffic – perhaps even profitable, and would perhaps kill off some of the outsourcing of services — but then of course you’re putting up international walls of social communication which are very much needed and beneficial. I guess the main concern for policing is, hopefully, just to take care of the bad guys? Scary slope.

          1. kidmercury

            net neutrality puts the government more in charge of the internet. one could argue the US government already controls the internet, and this is probably true, but this will give them even greater control. the united states government has lots of problems and that is my fundamental gripe, why would you give more power to a broken and corrupt institution. proving the brokenness and corruption in the US government is simple: http://www.patriotsquestion911.comi also think fred and many of his peers like net neutrality because it benefits some of their investments. curiously fred doesn’t mention this, though fred’s colleague brad has been a bit more forthcoming and admits there is potential for conflict of interest (not necessarily a problem, but nice to have it admitted as if a conflict of interest is to be tolerated i think admission of the conflict should be a prerequisite). ultimately though i think businesses rooted in open source technology instead of SaaS will allay many of fred’s concerns regarding ISPs having too much control.

        2. fredwilson

          net neutrality isn’t internet freedom, it’s just part of it

          1. kidmercury

            hope you will define the other parts, the criteria for being included, and what type of invoice if any will be given to me to pay for it.

          2. fredwilson

            you will pay with your vigilence my friend

          3. kidmercury

            i’m happy to pay vigilance. i want to know the monetary cost. you guys are always ignoring this. the natioanl broadband plan costs me money. net neutrality is going to cost me money. i don’t understand why this is so hard to admit when you start these conversations. even genachowski admits it. i simply want to know how much it costs me — whether it is a dime or a million dollars i don’t have, i want to know and i have a right to know. lol, i mean who agrees to pay for something when they don’t know the bill?

          4. Mark Essel

            I’ve got an image of Obi-wan Kenobi stuck in my head now, waving his hand “nevermind the money”I’ve got mixed instincts on FCC versus free market with respect to bits. Free market requires space for competition, and there is little to none for cable providers. My preference is flat pay per bit scales.I also like fixed tax structures that are tiny 1-5% total (no separate federal/state/property/sales/luxury) and ultra lean government. The affiliate rate the government charges to operate is outrageous ๐Ÿ˜‰ how about some competition where it really counts, gov regulated by free market forces!

          5. kidmercury

            for me any time government intervenes it could be legit. you canalways make a case for that, rightfully so. but IMHO it all depends onthe cast of characters behind the scenes. in this case we know theyare criminals, so……at least, that is where my extremism comesfrom.

      2. George A.

        Fred, if you build an internet with those rules, I’ll use it…but you will lose your shirt.

      3. George A.

        If internet freedom contains network neutrality, it must include pricing by definition. the central issue in net neutrality is about cablecos granting favored access to certain services in exchange for payment. Ostensibly, these are services the ones that consume disproportionate bandwidth.If they cannot extract compensation from the application providers, they will have to raise prices to consumers. There is no other option (unless you have a costless mechanism for increasing bandwidth nationwide).If netflix and boxee hog bandwidth, then either all consumers pay, or those that use it. that’s the rub.

      4. HowieG

        FredIsn’t all the smart phones and tablets changing this? We went from standards to nothing being able to run across the different hardware types. The delivery method means nothing if the recipient can’t use it on their device.

        1. fredwilson

          i agree but at least we’ve got strong competition in that area. local monopolies are what the real issue is in access

          1. Jake Howerton

            BINGO! Now what does Net Neutrality have to do with fixing this problem?

  2. Louis Berlan

    I look forward to seeing how you guys do this. I think the articulation between “inside” and “outside” the firm will be very interesting, but also a very blurry line. Especially when, as individuals, you are so associated with the firm: it’s difficult not to read anything here or on Albert’s blog, and not believe that it – at least in part – reflects the firm’s thinking.Keep us posted on how you guys go about this, especially since we know how much you dislike lobbying and industry groups.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, i learned a lesson about individual vs firm on yesterday’s post

      1. markslater

        yeah – you got paparazzi’d by business insider. Bit unfair if you ask me.

  3. Joe Yevoli

    “Mr. Genachowski’s aides are already considering whether to apply rules written for the old phone system to Internet providers, which the agency could use as a basis for policing net-neutrality violations.”I’m curious, can anyone enlighten me as to what ‘old phone system’ rules are/were?

    1. fredwilson

      right now internet is regulated as an “information service” including theaccess providersthe FCC is thinking about moving the access providers of data to “telephonyproviders” which would give them a lot more oversight power

      1. Tereza

        Does that mean common carrier status?

  4. Orrin Xu

    Internet freedom works exactly opposite to the way large institutions and governments operate. They like plans, they like being in control. The internet upsets that and shifts the balance of power to the people.To quote: “Introduce a little anarchy, upset the established order and everything becomes chaos.” Innovation and success comes out of the chaos.

    1. reece

      What success came of the chaos in the Dark Knight? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    2. raycote

      I thing the saying goes more like:”Out of chaos comes order”It operates well at a statistical Zen quantum level. Like the creation of the first self-replicating life molecules.It still applies at this level of social granularity but the costs associated with the transition into chaos and back out into new forms of order can be very high and there is no Midas muffler guaranty the new order will be more beneficial than the old order.I would not be so sure the internet”shifts the balance of power to the people”It may give them a sporting chance at the margins but wealth, power, education and control tend to statistically self reinforce in a very powerfully organic way.Oh – but don’t let a cynical old fart like me dissuade your enthusiasm for change!

  5. kidmercury

    the fact that you are pro net neutrality begs the question of how you define freedom. i am very much pro freedom and i agree 100000% with recent posts from albert and dave winer reminding us of the tyrannical threat crapple poses in a world so easily seduced by rounded corners and propaganda (i.e. apple commercials), but i am anti-net neutrality (used to be pro, i flip flopped), and am opposed to giving random agencies like the FCC authority. in any event, i hope you as guys march towards the inevitable convergence between networking technology and governance, you realize that the ultimate authority is the truth, and for those seeking freedom, only the truth can set you free.also, when you are acknowledging how great the first 15 years of the commercial web have been, i hope you will acknowledge its most memorable feature — the dot com bubble. bubbles are not good for an economy, and credit-based ones (like most bubbles and certainly the dot com and housing in the US created by greenspan’s fed) are particularly damaging as they ultimately require a misallocation of capital and thus greatly limit economic efficiency (the result being things like high prices and high unemployment….like what we’re seeing now). however you define freedom, i hope it does not come at my expense (i am cheap).

    1. fredwilson

      on bubbles, i’ll simply quote my friend tom evslin”nothing great has ever been accomplished without irrational exuberance”

      1. kidmercury

        see, this is what i’m talking about. bubbles rob people like me to enrich people like you (short summary: the print a lot of money, this devalues dollar, stock market rallies. net result: higher prices, but financials are hedged because of stock market rally). then, when confronted with this fact, you simply ignore it, responding with some random quote. best part: my behavior is criticized as immature/irresponsible. saddest part: you’re hundred thousand times ahead of most of your peers in terms of awareness and wanting to do the right thing (and actually meaning it….of course everyone just says it for marketing purposes)

        1. fredwilson

          no they enrich you because we get stuff like fiber to the home because crazypeople funded it at stupid valuations

          1. kidmercury

            but HOW did they fund it at “stupid” valuations? put another way: is paying 100 billion for somestupidbusiness.com a good idea? probably not — unless, of course, you have a 100 trillion dollars. than what’s a couple billion here and there? but this conversation is futile, as you insist upon being willfully ignorant of monetary policy, and so the obviousness of me paying $3 for gas while there are bubbles galore and how the two are deeply connected can never be acknowledged, let alone appreciated.

          2. fredwilson

            i’m not ignorant of monetary policyi know what the fed is doingi just don’t see it as evil as you do

          3. kidmercury

            thank you for your acknowledgement, please feel free to elaborate yourpoint at any time, as i would love to hear your thought process andrationale.

          4. raycote

            In a bubble large amounts of capital are siphoned off non-productive financial arbitrage and valueless production. There is however some economic value in the real industrial production portion of the bubble expenditures.I grasp only a superficial characterization of these economic components and would love a summaric(I know it is not a word it should be) free ride on the efforts of someone who has done a lot of research and thinking on these issues.

          5. Mark Essel

            !I think this requires a well thought kookanomics post with examples connecting bubbles and who benefits and who pays. But remember wealth isn’t zero sum in your analysis Kid, you can create wealth with your life’s work, with your determination, with your personal hype machine. Of course sustained wealth is really what matters, flash in the pan profit benefits only those who abuse financial systems.I’ll read it.

          6. Pete

            Bubbles aren’t conspiracies. They are the result of a lot of people acting in their own self interest. I worked for a dotcom in the late ’90s, and I had my personal savings invested in funds that owned internet stocks. I didn’t do it to hurt anyone. A lot of people like me got excited about the internet and threw their time and personal savings into it. Demand outstrips supply, and then supply struggles to catch up. http://en.wikipedia.org/wik

          7. kidmercury

            i’m not disputing what you are saying and i agree what you are sayingplays a part in creating bubbles. however, crowd euphoria is a byproduct of too much money being created. it all goes back to moneysupply. for a more elaborate explanation, look into austrian businesscycle theory.

          8. Pete

            I just looked at the wikipedia article, kid, but still having trouble connecting the money supply to the dotcom crash. Even though the Fed is responsible for cheaper money, the Fed has nothing to do with how people actually use the money. If I could take out a $100,000 interest free loan today, what could I do with it? I could do anything with it. Just like I could do anything with my personal savings right now.The Internet bubble is infamous for having destroyed the retirement savings of a lot of people. I know a guy in his 60’s who quit his job to daytrade his nestegg. It was not a credit driven bubble. If anything, it led to the credit/housing bubble when the Fed reacted to the post-dotcom recession.

          9. kidmercury

            under current monetary policy all money is lent into existence. so,the banks create the money and lend it into existence. banks are atthe top of the money pyramid. because banks are basically a part ofthe financial sector, the finance industry is closest to the banks,and hence closest to the top of the money pyramid. as a result,because of how money is created, the financials benefit the most. thisis why the stock market is viewed as a hedge against inflation –because the banks inflate the money supply and put it in the stockmarket. this is also why the financial sector can create a media andincentivize a system that sells active trading and stock marketeuphoria.here is a good link if you are interested in more on this perspective:http://mises.org/daily/572

          10. Pete

            The dotcom bubble was sold to us by the financial sector? Not in my case. I’m pretty sure that my contribution to the dotcom bubble was motivated by my own intellectual interest, passion to create something new and exciting, and good old human greed.

          11. raycote

            It was the loose money policies that created the financial environmental carrot that made you and many other people’s greed kick in on the collective bubble. I have to agree with the KID here. Most of us are simply to busy to drill down on the mechanisms of money an credit. It is a tedious drill down with lots of circles. This needs to be a more central focus of public debate and education.

          12. Mike O'Horo

            Kid’s point about “all money being lent into existence” is not only true, but one about which the US population is largely ignorant. Banks sell “bank guarantees,” which are simply paper whose value is declared into existence and backed not with the X billion in face value, but with nothing more than our collective confidence that the bank will pay out X billion ten years hence when someone redeems the paper. I think that Kid’s point is that the reserve requirements are so low as to be insignificant, meaning that the banks can lend, i.e., create by declaration, many multiples of their actual capitalization, which is how we got into the precarious situation in 2008.The portion of the population whose borrowing and spending is limited by much lower ratios of debt to actual assets or income might reasonably resent the big banks’ ability to virtually declare any amount of money into existence, then loan this non-existent asset at a premium. It’s as if you could borrow real money against Farmville assets.

          13. Mark Essel

            It’s lines like these that cause me to believe I’ve selected the right profession. Where else can crazy people get credit for doing irrational things.Where do I want to be in 10 years? happily married, some kids, and eccentric & rich. There’s no better place to do that than starting a (web/network) business.

    2. Mark Essel

      I think I have a runaround crapple as long as the host has net access. Will share more after I get it working.

      1. kidmercury

        yes, please do! we need to openly encourage and network againstcrapple. i honestly think app developers should unionize against theirplatform.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Better do that silently! ๐Ÿ™‚

        2. raycote

          There is a very long list of companies that put out alliance like commodity devices with turnkey software so why exactly do you single Apple out?If you prefer a wild west, anything goes, environment choose from the plethora of Android phones. Apple has no monopoly on any device market.Success at selling a digital consumer device make them evil. All kinds of gaming systems and set top boxes are closed, why not hate on them?

          1. kidmercury

            their partnerhsip with at&t, a company documented to be partneringwith the NSA to violate the US constitution, is my primary beef withcrapple. i do think they also are more closed than other platforms.also, they aim for a broad audience — not a niche. their rationalethat their approach allows for better integration makes sense at aniche level. the more mass you want to be, the more open you need tobe to cater to all the diversity out there. they also exploit aconsumer audience that is not sophisticated enough (yet) to know howapple is manipulating the entire ecosystem. the fact that they are aslarge as they are and as closed as they are means they are in aposition to affect developer capabilities more than most. but i dohope the free market understands and catches up, in which case applewill lose. i do believe in the long run this is what will end uphappening.

    3. ShanaC

      Since I can’t answer below:Why is specie money? In order for your explanation to work, a service can’t be money.And how do we determine equlibrium value of credit? Without a bank. There still is room here for an equilibrium value- so why is there an information paradox- shouldn’t there be a market for credit independent of banks?

      1. kidmercury

        money is loaned into existence under the federal reserve system –this is fact, you can research and see for yourself. this isinherently fraudulent. of course, what constitutes fraud issubjective, but, i think many will be able to see it as an inherentlyunfair system, in which the banking industry has an upper hand. at thevery least, we can also look at the consequences: a world in whichmoney is lent into existence results in an unending cycle of debtcrises. of course, to be deeply in debt is basically to be a slave.fortunately, the truth can set us free.

    4. raycote

      Could go on all day about the importance of:”misallocation of capital”this point need amplification in future posts.What’s with the Apple hate? They have lots of warts on their ass but their closed app web delivery system is just a customer choice option. They have little impact on the larger internet infrastructure.

      1. kidmercury

        If everyone uses crapple products crapple will control fate of application development. Their platform governance policy limits developer creativity for reasons of control and short-term profits; the entire economy they generate suffers as a result. Ultimately though once developers walk Apple’s bluff will be called. The developers should have walked yesterday, I don’t know what folks are waiting around for, but hopefully the beef with adobe is starting to illustrate the point and developers will walk. At which point Crapple will lose market share and become a niche product. The larger the platform, the more open it will have to be to ensure economic growth based on innovation.

  6. Matt A. Myers

    The thing that always strikes me with this topic and patents is where the difference of opinion is; The Haves, the Have-nots, and the Haves and Have-nots who want more.The Haves (or on their way to haves) and Have-nots who want more seems to be where the break exists.Have-nots who want more seem to like patents so they can secure their way to becoming a Have, and the Haves who don’t like patents generally will avoid headaches and uncertainty and remove a large junk of risk, which to me would be main reason to be against patents if I was in a position of just developing full-on. But once again, this stops the Haves from just copying every profitable idea, and of course probably executing it better too since they’d have the resources; Patents perhaps allows that little bit of forced Thinking-before-doing that’s maybe a bit needed?Haves could also have a love/hate relationship if they’re an investor and has stakes with companies who own patents, or a patent is only thing sort of keeping their company from crumbling (but then they haven’t hired a good marketing team, etc. but maybe they just didn’t have the biggest connection to the biggest potential client… and other wanting-to-infringe company does have that connection?)Sorry that was difficult to read with all of the Haves, Have-nots.And, don’t take me wrong, I understand and realize that business and profits are what drive the market and innovation, but it’s good to be aware; Social connections and social media has developed and speeding up because of the future profits seen by companies, that’s only reason money was put into their development, and in the end consumers will win, as long as government can keep up with it (I touch on this in another comment of mine somewhere on this blog).People generally takes sides to where they see it benefiting themselves the most. In retrospect, if they are currently in social media or creating a more social and open internet then that is a win for society too – which connects the loop for fulfilling the demand and need for a potentially profitable business model.

    1. Mark Essel

      Matthew,I dig your philosophical jaunt through motivation, the ultimate predictor of behavior. We define ourselves not just by our selfish decisions, but by how long term our thinking is.Sorta off topic, but inspired by your decision making review: One of the limitations of current large business structures is that they optimize to the point of obsolescence unable to self disrupt mainline revenue streams (size literally kills them). Large networks of non-profits are showing me that social change can happen without an unerring focus on profit and bottom line.But there’s a new category of business that has yet to fully define itself, the socially and fiscally conscious organization. We can use the powerful optimization of capitalization to diminish waste while wielding the wisdom of long term social wealth to make possible dynamic single point solutions. Large organizations lose their meaning and purpose when they try to be too many things, to too many people. They effectively transition from signal to noise.

      1. raycote

        Non profits do generate an analogue to bottom line profit. They generate social capital.

        1. Mark Essel

          Sure enough rayI’d like to see social capital and our measured wealth find a happy meeting. Value is all relative, including social capital. It’s separated out because it’s hard to exchange.

  7. kirklove

    I agree with the need to reframe the debate. Net Neutrality was always a bit confusing. Something about the term Internet Freedom sounds off to me though. Perhaps it’s because it sounds something like a contrived right-wing conservative talking point you’d hear on Fox. It’s too patriotic (and American-Centric as well) sounding and cheapens the word freedom to me for some reason, which should never be IMHO.

    1. fredwilson

      and clearly (by judging the early comments in this thread) the word freedommeans price to some people and that is not part of how i see internetfreedom

      1. andyswan

        Price is the direct result of freedom. Without freedom of supply and freedom of demand, you cannot have a fair and honorable price.

        1. fredwilson

          yes!

  8. hakantheone

    I don’t understand why Comcast throttles bit torrent instead of using alternative pricing plans like charging per bit or bandwidth caps. Is that too complicated for an average user?

    1. Mark Essel

      I think it’s partly do to their infrastructure. They can only dole out so many bits let second to a node which is shared. We’d have to locally compete.

  9. Philip J. Cortes

    I can’t help but wonder – should the internet then become a public good? If the barriers to entry are too high for perfect competition to rule, and this comes at the expense of the customer, then perhaps the government should just take over the industry?This having been said, my intuition is that Google (amongst other firms), have already looked down the road a few years, and will soon be providing internet to consumers themselves. This would thus increase competition in this market, and hopefully positively alleviate many of the concerns we have with regards to the recent ruling.

    1. fredwilson

      google is very much preparing to do that if they have tothat is a very good thingcompetition is always the best answer

      1. Mihai Badoiu

        What’s important about the Google’s fiber network is that it’s fast. Hopefully this will make the network providers give faster connectivity. I’m really annoyed about the whole idea of throttling, and the network providers are doing a lot of that. You pay for a service, but then if you use too much of it the network may downgrade it in a seemingly invisible way.Note that Google has and is working on products to detect such things and keep the network provider honest. This is another way of creating honest competition between the networks.

    2. reece

      “perhaps the government should just take over the industry?”Some people (myself and AndySwan to start) would likely rather see the internet destroyed than in the hands of the government… a.k.a. “looters.”p.s. – Google has already poked the bear. http://googleblog.blogspot….

      1. Josh Morgan

        Right on Reece. I am not sure which side of the fence I come down on this. I see net neutrality/national broadband in a similar light to the interstate highway system. A positive investment that greases the wheels of innovation.On the other hand, given Obama’s record and that of his appointees, I am fearful of too much government. Just like with healthcare we will be told that CEOs, big corporations, and other strawmen are taking advantage of the internet (ie investing billions in their network and then expecting people to pay a fair amount for their use). I am much more worried about the threat of tyranny that would ensue once the government assumes the power and dictates net neutrality.There is something very Casto-esque to this.All of this should be done privately with no govnt involvement!

        1. reece

          It’s tough. In theory, yes, the government is a natural candidate for managing the web.But in practice, the only thing the government runs really well is our military.(At least from my perspective. You’ve got military experience, right?)

          1. HowieG

            Our Govt doesn’t run the military well financially or economically. You should read the Power Game by Hedrick Smith sometime. Its definitely a major socialist institution just don’t tell the tea party that.

          2. reece

            I supposed by “well” I meant world leader, though I know it’s not by being efficient (particularly with capital).That being said, if the gov’t wanted to start throwing some of those billions behind the web, I’d support it.

          3. andyswan

            Careful Reece….that’s a slippery slope. Once gov’t starts funding something, they feel they have the right to dictate how and when it is used and by whom.Can’t you see the complaints now…..”What do you mean you shouldn’t have to pay a 65% tax on internet profits—YOU BENEFITED FROM GOVERNMENT INVESTMENT!!!!!!”You can already hear the looters say those kinds of things about roadways and water systems.

          4. reece

            Thank you Andy… I nearly fell.

          5. Mark Essel

            That’s awesome. There’d be plenty of black market web to go around.. speaking of which it’s time I get me some of those unregulated bits.

          6. reece

            And I’ll check out the book, thanks for the rec.

          7. andyswan

            Yes, and it was designed to be “socialist” by the founders, as a deliberate exception. NO ONE in the ‘tea party” (which doesn’t exist) believes otherwise. The Constitution is very clear on the limited role of the federal government, and one of those explicit roles is to provide for the common defense through a national military (originally funded by the states, not the individual).

      2. andyswan

        “Some people would likely rather see the internet destroyed than in the hands of the government”.Both end up with the same internet….the latter just lasts longer and costs more.

        1. reece

          And if we’re going to see something we love destroyed, then let’s do it ourselves and have some fun.

          1. andyswan

            Maybe there is more to this 4chan than meets the eye ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Harry DeMott

    There are really two issues here which I think are being intermingled:1. The freedom for companies to innovate and get services out to users and for those users to access them and2. The ability for the ultimate provider of that service to make sure that certain actions by a small minority don’t degrade the experience for the whole (or another way to put it is making sure that one person doesn’t hog all the shared bandwidth)And the issues are interrelated.We take #1 as a given – and that is the way it should be – and anything that goes the way of lessening this should be dealt withThe issue with more nuance is #2 – because it really has the opportunity to affect #1. When Comcast throttled Bit Torrent – they did so because they felt that a small minority of users were using an enormous percentage of the bandwidth allocated to their systems – which was not reasonable in their minds. It’s like an all you can eat buffet at Red Lobster – sooner or later the guy who is eating 3 pounds of lobsters is going to get banned. As a media analyst, I talk to a lot of cable companies and they all tell the same tale (whether or not it is true or they are spinning is another question)So even under throttling, the Internet is still “free” – you could get to all the sites on the net – you just couldn’t get to some sites and use them 24/7/365 as a video server as long as you were on Comcast’s network.The dangerous thing is how Comcast deals with that situation and how it affects point #1. If they decide that certain sites are too important to be slowed down and start creating protected lanes for their traffic – then that pretty much violates the first point. As profit seeking companies – it is only a matter of time before google and YouTube have their own dedicated channel (just as ESPN does) and Google will be paying Comcast for this – an extremely bad outcome.The alternative is to charge the user some flat fee for a certain amount of bandwidth and then impose some sort of cap on bandwidth – and after that cap you start paying.This has most people up in arms – the obvious thought is that the Internet is no longer “free.”I look at it slightly differently – I don’t view the internet as any less “free”, I just view it as a restaurant that has changed from an all you can eat buffet to an ala carte pricing model – or perhaps it is a buffet but you can only eat 3 lobsters – and the 4th is going to start costing you extra.Unless the government and the FCC is essentially going to nationalize the Internet (and by that I mean all of the cable and telecom companies that provide the last mile service) we are going to have to deal with private, profit seeking companies – to provide our internet service. The question is not whether there should be net neutrality (there should be) – but whether the companies that manage these last mile networks should be free to manage their networks for the benefit of the whole user base – as opposed to servicing users 5 standard deviations from the norm.The delicate balancing act will be getting the government to make sure that we all have access to everything we want all the time – while allowing ISP’s to police their own system for outliers in terms of usage without in any way violating the first principle.

    1. fredwilson

      great comment harryit is very much how we deal with #2, which is a real problem, that isimportant

      1. Mark Essel

        Tried commenting under you comment about paying for yesterday’s opinion (poweful post, backlash smack lash).Fred’s comment: “yeah, i learned a lesson about individual vs firm on yesterday’s post”How long is your current fund at AVC?If I was never told you were an investor and read a good fraction of your posts I’d guess you were a hippy zen capitalist, not beholden to any external authority and more interested in truth over profit, which puts you in a delicate position as an investor.But we all have to earn lunch money ๐Ÿ˜€

        1. fredwilson

          hippie zen capitalist!that is such a compliment. i love it. thank you mark.

          1. andyswan

            LOL that is great.I’ve been telling people for years that I’m a “capitalist by day and hippie by night”…but I think your new tag has better brandability. ๐Ÿ™‚

          2. fredwilson

            all the good phrases, like freemium, are coined in the comments here at AVC

          3. andyswan

            Don’t you think disqus should add feature where site owner can “star” comments so that they can be displayed for eternity on a separate page, etc?I’d love that as both site owner and “deliberate commenter”

          4. fredwilson

            yes i do

          5. Tereza

            Or a Letterman-style Top Ten Comments of the Day.And Fred can Star the honorable mentions.

      2. ShanaC

        From a consumer end, I thought #2 is how we are living….I’m not toally sure why this is bad, not many people use the amount we think, we just need to make sure we keep raising the caps over time.

    2. Mihai Badoiu

      “2. The ability for the ultimate provider of that service to make sure that certain actions by a small minority don’t degrade the experience for the whole (or another way to put it is making sure that one person doesn’t hog all the shared bandwidth)”I don’t believe torrent was actually spoiling the internet experience for anybody. I think throttling it is more of a cost saving measure for the network provider. Plus, there may have been other forces at work here (some content on torrent is illegal, and I’m sure content companies put pressure on the network providers to close down torrent)

      1. Harry DeMott

        Yeah, I am naturally skeptical of anything that comes out of the cable companies. My guess is that overall service across their network was not a huge problem – but I would hate to be the neighbor of the kid running a Pirate Bay server out of his home. Cable architecture is such that bandwidth would be shared among this node – and the nodes performance would deteriorate to the point where they would have to split the nodes to keep everyone served – ultimately putting in a separate node just for the Pirate Bay guy. so yeah, it is about money – and to some degree service – and yes there is certainly the illegality issue when it comes to someone as highly regulated as the cable companies. Remember, music guys have been threatening to sue them for a long time – as have movie studios – and quite frankly, given the fact that Comcast has a robust VOD service – they would hate to encourage video piracy over the same pipe that carries a profitable service for them.

        1. Mark Essel

          Great point about the architecture. I keep dreaming about Ad Hoc nets winning based on cost, but they’d need really smart navigation systems due to dynamic nodes

          1. Harry DeMott

            Docsis 3.0 does a better job of all of this – handling much more bandwidth into the home from a node – and upgrading the intelligence there – but it is still a problem. On top of this, cable companies have decided to gouge for the incremental bandwidth (CVC the best at $100 per month for Optimum Online Ultra – 100MB downstream, but others are trying pricing in the $129 – $149 per month for Docsis 3.0) They figure they have no real competition and early adopters will pay – so rather than crushing DSL right now with a $59 Docsis 3.0 modem with free phone calls if you sign up for 2 years and pay the $40 per modem that it costs them – they charge set up fees, fees on the modem etc…I know I am probably in the very small minority on this blog – but I am in favor of metered pricing with an all you can eat plan up to a very high cap – and metered afterward. Let those who consume the most pay the most – as opposed to let those who consume the least subsidize those who consume the most. It’s not hard to monitor or meter – but the cable guys would have a tougher time with the pricing (although their cell phone brethren already do this)

          2. fredwilson

            i love that pricing concept. i’d be in the metered band for sure and i’d happily pay for it.to me net neutrality and internet freedom have nothing to do with how much access costs as long as there is decent access for everyone at a reasonable and fair pricefor me it is about making sure the infrastructure is available to all applications equally

          3. Harry DeMott

            glad we agree! Now the question is how do you get the FCC to properly understand the concept and implement policy toward that end (if they are going to enact any policy at all) Hopefully they read this blog down there and can get some great ideas from it. My guess is they do.

          4. fredwilson

            my partner Brad and I are headed to DC in a few weeksi’ll make sure to make my thoughts on that known

          5. raycote

            I kind off agree with the metering approach in concept but without much competition I don’t trust the cable companies not to overcharge and game the rule into the ground.They don’t seem to understand the long term benefits of including their customer in the value equation.

        2. ShanaC

          I was having a discussion about Hulu last night with someone-it didn’t hit him that he has to cover cost of bandwidth and content and that Hulu isn’t covering cost. If we do tier, I still am not sure if it will hit him that essentially there are two charges for stuff out there- hence the resistance.It is hard to explain utilities and how they work seperate from content. It can look a little too much like magic, we need to erase that problem

    3. Mark Essel

      After reading yet another incredible comment I realized Fred’s got the best blog network/web magazine in town. He’s got a dedicated staff (based on interest) that writes high quality op eds on the fly.All the pay per bit cloud services I use or have used are incredibly cheap. This pricing model would be ideal for personal use but would require automated book keeping, something the last mile companies may not want to pay for.

      1. fredwilson

        and you are one of the main contributing editors mark

        1. Tereza

          Also a really nice guy.Counts for a lot in my book.

          1. fredwilson

            me too

          2. Mark Essel

            I always get more out of reading than the time it takes.Look at how much groovy knowledge you can pick up in a year hanging around here. And more importantly meeting the people who find it worthwhile to share it. It’s like PlentyOfFish for investors/founders/philosophers.

          3. ShanaC

            me too about the reading.

    4. andyswan

      “getting the government to make sure that we all have access to everything we want all the time “I can’t wait for utopia!

      1. ShanaC

        I think we are all too human for utopia

        1. andyswan

          I sure as hell hope so

  11. Mihai Badoiu

    Fred, I’m curious what exactly you (and other VCs) are doing on public policy issues. Is there any lobbying involved? VCs are very small and it’s not like they can have a group dedicated for lobbying. How do VCs collaborate to push the right policies?

    1. fredwilson

      there is a dedicated lobbying group for VCs called the NVCAbut our firm is not part of itour approach is three parts1) speak loudly and consistently about what we believe in and why it is important. this blog is part of that but not the only party of that2) develop relationships in local, state, and national government and leverage those relationships to help move our ideas forward3) work to get entrepreneurs and other VCs engaged and doing similar things

      1. Mark Essel

        Number 3 is the most important. Rallying the community to take action, and storm the castle.

      2. David Binetti

        Fred, you might not be part of the NVCA, but your three-part approach is the canonical definition of lobbying.Why not just co-opt the term? All the good phrases are coined in the AVC comments, right? “Fred Wilson: Full-time Venture Capitalist, Part-time Social Lobbyist.”As long as we have a representative democracy we’ll have lobbying — and there’s nothing wrong with petitioning our government for the redress of grievances. The trick is to provide an alternative to campaign contribution-based lobbying (the part that we find distasteful.)So create a new definition of lobbying and juxtapose the two approaches against one another. Traditional Lobbyists rely on contributions to promote public policy; Social Lobbyists rely on ideas to promote public policy. Traditional Lobbyists concentrate large amounts of money in small numbers of persons; Social Lobbyists use little to no money and motivate large numbers of persons to action. Traditional Lobbyists have private meetings with lawmakers; Social Lobbyists are fully transparent. And so on….

  12. HowieG

    Internet freedom is really a battle between major companies built outside of the internet who use it to enhance their business.I never pondered it before but from the Ad Contrarian’s post yesterday. While the Internet has become so pervasive in all our lives, less than ten Global US companies (businesses that have world wide presence and are known around the world) have been created since 1995 on the Internet (meaning they exist only online). Facebook (though I doubt they will be around in 10 years), EBay, Yahoo, Google/YouTube, Amazon. I am sure I missed 1 or 2. AOL once was world reknowned.I have pondered net neutrality. It is a socialist model. But the net is built by private companies. So unless the US taxpayer is willing to subsidize the investments by the networking firms I have issues telling a company that invested billions creating a network that everyone can have access and use it often for free. BUT there is the other side of things that without all the websites and freedom of access we have no ruse for the network!

    1. Mark Essel

      There’s certainly a conflict, but an Ad Hoc network could backdoor any heavy regulation. I just can’t get around the problem of packet routing with nodes coming in and out, and how to cross gaps where there are no nodes. We’d need a signal that would be long wavelength to maximize distance or work through toll bridges (fiber, fat backends).

  13. George A.

    no picture, I assume you are wearing an american flag like a cape.

  14. andyswan

    Regardless of your stance on net neutrality, I think it’s a WONDERFUL thing that a court actually restricted the power of a non-elected unit of government.If you want government to destroy innovation in providers, at least make them vote on it in public…like they did when they destroyed health providers last week (or has it been two?)

  15. Mark Essel

    I’m beginning to consider a fully deregulated market may offer us dumb pipes (pay per bit) sooner than an FCC one.But there will be a period where all media is regulated and bits vary wildly in price based on demand. Not all software sells for the same price, and unfortunately our consumption history leans towards paying distributors a share of value instead of a flat rate: affiliates get 2-6%, Apple store get’s 30%, comcast get’s X%In a free market the dumb pipes will win coveted data, and the “smart pipes” would get the crap.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s why i am so interested in unregulated wireless spectrum

      1. Mark Essel

        Going further the demand on specific patterns of bits could elevate the cost to carry them in a regulated network, that’s just weird.Its best to decouple the value of information and the cost to broadcast and receive it though. It has to do with freedom of information and all that. I don’t mind charging for bandwidth though, that just makes sense. If I consume and transmit more bits, I pay more. That market force should drive down the cost of the network rapidly towards a technological floor before jumping to another form.What would I do with unlimited free bandwidth? Now that’s a fun question.

      2. Ahad Bokhari

        Or the unregulated VOIP spectrum, good point Fred and Marc..

  16. D. Lambert

    I heard an interview on NPR this morning that made Comcast look like small potatoes: http://m.npr.org/news/front…While the Comcast decision was disappointing, the NPR bit reminded me that there’s a lot more to Net Neutrality than what one carrier does to its subscribers, and there’s a whole lot of the Internet that the FCC definitively *does not* have influence over.I was in the car with my son on the way to school when I heard that interview, and afterwards, I tried to explain to him that although the interview hugely oversimplified the material, the biggest problem I had was that the article failed to explain the cooperative nature of today’s Internet. Specifically, we saw the origin and growth of the Internet only because a bunch of networking providers agreed to inter-operate on the basis of a set of open standards. When the standards cease to be widely agreed upon, we’re in danger of losing the elixir that powered that growth, aren’t we?Will we at some point see the Internet degrade into a loosely-connected patchwork of proprietary networks (some of which are government-controlled)?

  17. scottmag

    I have generally opposed this movement for “net neutrality” or “Internet freedom” but I feel like I am swimming upstream on this one. I certainly want the result that we are able to use the Internet without artificial restrictions imposed by ISPs to protect their business models. But I don’t like the approach of monolithic government policy for this issue. It’s both too complex to be adequately addressed by the less than tech-savvy U.S. Congress, and it faces the uphill task of being against the business interests of major financers of Congressional campaigns. Perhaps FCC regulation gets around some of that. I don’t really know how it could be achieved. But nonetheless I dislike the expectation that our government is going to save us on this issue. I think there would be a pandora’s box of unintended consequences.What I would prefer is a market solution based on competition. If we all had 10 high-speed ISP options instead of the one or two (or zero) that we typically have in the U.S. then we would be able to vote with our dollars. We would not only patronize the ISPs that served us the unrestricted, open Internet, but we would also drive improvements in service (speed and reliability, notably).Of course we don’t have that and are not likely to get it without some government help. So which is more likely, or desirable? Could we be better off with our efforts going toward improving the competitive landscape and Internet access options? Those are concepts even a legislator can understand. And the conversation here shows that even advocates of the positions are tripping over the terms “neutrality” and “freedom.” It seems a Sisyphean task, but maybe I am cynical and/or wrong.

    1. fredwilson

      i’m with you scotti would like the competitive solution toobut i just don’t know how we get there unless the gov’t is willing toderegulate and open a wide band of high quality spectrum for a competitiveaccess layer

      1. scottmag

        “unless the gov’t is willing to deregulate and open a wide band of high quality spectrum for a competitiveaccess layer”Honestly, that may be more likely. Plus that’s partly a technology solution.I’ll say I want both, but I really fear that any government-imposed “net neutrality” will come with new DMCA-style regulations and more enhancements to copyright protection.OK, no more cynicism from me.

      2. James Riso

        Fred, I would have expected you to mention local loop unbundling here, especially since you sided with Yochai Benkler not too long ago.Can you point me to a post where you elaborate on your vision for unlicensed spectrum as a solution to last-mile access competition? (or please consider spelling it out if you haven’t done so already). Who do you expect to build it out?Great discussion all around, btw.

    2. Mark Essel

      Scott you have a healthy fear of “the unintended consequences” which have plagued our bureaucracy for so long. We’re just not smart enough to predict what will happen long term when decisions are placed under government control. I think that’s where the adaptive engineering of the free market comes in to help us out. Truly the best answer is some way of restricting regulation and promoting competition at the same time, like temporary subsidies for folks researching broad band technologies?

  18. Gregg Smith

    I’m sitting in my chair in rural America trying to figure out how to get more people to pay us for high speed data services. I’m reviewing business plans for fiber to the home and trying to compete with those funded by the local, state and federal government. I’m reviewing other plans for long haul fiber transport construction, as well as mobile backhaul. I try to understand how those plans will impact our current network and how much we’ll have to spend to reinforce it with additional fiber. The final analysis will come down to a return on our investment. I just can’t see how the Pirate Bay servers and bittorrent traffic really add to the “permissionless innovation” we all want. We as network service providers ultimately want innovation that drives up bandwidth utilization and adoption. We want to invest in our network and drive fiber deeper. I don’t want to compete with a company or government program that’s investing without a need for a return.Aside…will anyone complain that the Google 1Gb/s fiber network is an “up to” speed like everyone complains about cable companies? Or will GOOG purchase a Cisco CRS-3 for every 100 homes it “fibers” at $90,000 and then offer the open network at a reasonable price. [Excuse me while I go purchase some CSCO].

    1. Mark Essel

      I think you’re right about that last thought on Googs up to 1gb/s. It reminds me of my recent read about the first transistors and Moore’s law. They gambled by subsidizing costs greatly and met incredible price drops time and time again. Can this same thinking drive bandwidth improvement though? I gotta say the researcher side of me would love to be a part of that effort. The entrepreneur side of me wants to beat them to it ๐Ÿ˜€

    2. ShanaC

      People will hate me for this:On some level, data is infinitely dividable and reconbinable. It has no meaning unless you or I or a group of us attribute meaning to it. Innovation comes from attribution-and one of the mistakes we make all the time is all innovation is positive. Innovation could instead be described as a state of infinite recombination and division to which we attribute moral/social meaning after the fact. A bittorent in that light carries very little inherent meaning- it is the movie or the OS that we attribute to that bittorrent that gives it a moral attribute because of the way we feel about that new object.

  19. Ben Atlas

    Fred, you say that “our society has benefited mightily from Internet Freedom”. May be you are confusing society with your business. Millions of jobs have been lost due to the upheaval brought by the internet and there is not visible answer for the decimated creative class, for the outsourced, etc. So please leave the “society” rhetoric alone and speak for yourself as they say.With means that you or your partners are simply no authorized to speak on behalf of the “society” till you at least in writing address the job destruction honestly.

    1. fredwilson

      40 million jobs have been created here in the US over the past 25 years bystartups (not all of them venture backed)don’t focus on job lossesthey are inevitablefocus on new jobs

      1. Ben Atlas

        I didn’t know there was an Internet 25 years ago. Indeed lets focus on the new jobs created by the internet. We know it can scale and create a value and wealth for a tiny group of people who control the servers. But for every job that the Internet created it destroyed 10. And naturally you want to focus on the 1/10th of that ratio. And naturally the same people want free internet because it multiplies the scale of the servers. But lets be clear, it doesn’t create jobs, at least not so far.And the worst part is that the internet elite doesn’t seem to care about creating the jobs.

        1. fredwilson

          where do you get that 1 for 10 data?i don’t believe it to be true at all

          1. Ben Atlas

            Fred, I made up the statistic but I bet it’s not far from truth. The fact of the matter is that I am familiar with the revolutionary lingo circa 95 as good as anyone else. But 15 years later there is a crisis. The Internet has enriched fabulously a few and impoverished many. The crisis was masked buy the good old days of the last decade but was laid bare by the great recession. So the premise that “our society has benefited mightily from Internet Freedom” is far from evident in the current situation.And the fact that there is some inevitable breakage in any change is not helping the creative class. The outsourced middle class, the blue color workers whose livelihood moved away with the internet speed. And so far the Internet has nothing to show these people even if they tweet about it all day long.

        2. raycote

          If your looking for monopolist, train wrecking, job eating elitists your are looking in the wrong place. Look over there at the central bankers and the non-productive financial arbitrage crowd. Those contributing to industrial production and technical innovation may create some unavoidable shot term consternation in the job market but framing on a slightly longer window they are really helping to secure the meaningfully productive jobs that are sustainable in the coming network based economy.

          1. Ben Atlas

            I wish it was true instead the internet oligarchy just like the hedge fund industry benefits from the derivatives. I.e. instead of creating value for the creative class they monetize links to the valuable information. Instead off helping the writers they live off the derivative scans of their work.They create culture that rewards the derivative aggregation and linking instead of the original content creation. It kills the jobs as good if not better as the CDSs.

      2. Mark Essel

        Well maybe we should consider job loss and creation as a form of financial document set aka MBA mondays. It’s not just job creation but average yearly net job creation.

        1. Ben Atlas

          Mark, I doubt think there is the will and even the guts to address the issues touch upon by Jaron Lanier but at the minimum my objection was to the accuracy of this statement: “society has benefited mightily from Internet Freedom”.

    2. andyswan

      Why do I get the feeling Ben Atlas was damning the mechanized tractor, the railroads, and the wheel as well? I mean for goodness sakes people we used to employ 1500 men to bring a bag of corn to the coast! Think of the buggywhip unions!

  20. Nick Giglia

    Net neutrality to me is all about the freedom to innovate on the internet. Without this restriction, as mentioned by many others, nothing could stop Google, Yahoo, or someone else with deep pockets from creating dedicated bandwidth channels and locking out both competitors and enterprising entrepreneurs. Since I’d argue bandwidth is more finite than a TV channel lineup, this is anticompetitive and would cripple any innovation we could create on the internet. It’s a dangerous future, and I hope we do not go down this route.The other issue is one the carriers repeatedly bring up during debates on the net neutrality subject: that enforcing it would stifle innovation. We’re already behind many other nations in broadband capacity, and the recent court decision throws the FCC’s ambitious plan for rural broadband expansion into serious jeopardy. There has to be some kind of deal over the last mile, or we need to, dare I say it, have a government takeover of the internet pipes. Nobody would support this since the chance for tyranny is too high, but it’s something to consider as long as for-profit companies determine access.I wouldn’t be against metered pricing, especially since my business is cloud computing (I’d never deny that I want broadband as fast as possible and everywhere for that reason). We’ve seen unlimited data plans wreck some networks (cough, AT&T), and maybe there’s a happy medium…However, on the whole, I’m not in favor of restricting lawful activity.I’ve been calling Sen. Schumer’s office on Long Island nonstop for the past week (if they don’t return my calls, I’m just heading over there). The big question now is next steps…Will Congress pass a law enforcing net neutrality? Will we need to follow Fred’s lead and frame it within the larger Internet Freedom argument (great term, by the way)? I’d love suggestions on that, because a future with packet discrimination is not a future I want to live in.

    1. Mark Essel

      Maybe we can mimic nations with higher bandwidth infrastructures? Or the government can support massive R&D into faster transmission/reception. That’s an easy way to subsidize faster networks.

  21. thewalrus

    open internet = free speechand agree that pricing is a secondary issue. the key is that there aren’t rules on the books that allow vested parties to restrict access – under any circumstances. its a slippery slope that history has proven will be greased by ulterior motives, if loopholes are available.

  22. Pete

    A packet is a packet, and since we don’t have competition, government regulation is the only we we can ensure all packets are treated equally. Thanks for carrying the flag, Fred!

    1. Gregg Smith

      As a network provider, I agree with this principal. Where we likely disagree is in how the provider should treat the volume of those packets to ensure your customer experience meets (or even exceeds) your expectation of service.

      1. Pete

        You should treat them equally, invest in the infrastructure to deliver them, and then charge me based on my usage. Is that overly simplistic?

        1. Gregg Smith

          No, not at all.The issue with this forum is most of you aren’t our (or any large network’s) targeted consumer. We as network providers have trained our consumers on the all you can eat plan, when a usage-based billing would benefit the majority.You wouldn’t believe how many minutes a very, very few (less than 0.03%) will use of an all-you-can eat long distance plan. The same goes for unlimited data. It’s not the daily netflix movies, it’s the 24×7 bittorrent servers.

          1. Pete

            So you should be in favor of net neutrality because it would force all service providers to a volume-based model, which is better for you and everyone. Yes? Because nobody knows what the next great bandwidth-eating web application is, and maybe everyone is going to want it rather than just a small percentage.Your customers may be trained, but who wants customers if they’re eternally unprofitable? Better to lose the customer who won’t pay for the value he receives.

          2. Gregg Smith

            Depending on the definition and details of NN, I would be personally.The flip side of the issue is cost of content. Today media/content providers are requiring us to pay for content regardless of whether our customers access it (much like cable tv). ESPN3 and NBCi (Olympics) are two examples that need to be addressed. We have hashed this out before on avc.com.

          3. Pete

            I’m with you there, too. I already pay for 400 channels of content that I don’t want. I’m happy to pay ESPN directly if I want their programming. Net neutrality cuts both ways for the broadband providers, and it benefits consumers across the board.

  23. markslater

    action point:- boycott comcast – i’ve just changed my home service as a result. They sold me a pack of lies and deceived me on the product i was getting and i’ll join the class action that must result from an FTC review. Seriously – they should be mandated to advertise their internet product with ****.

  24. Jake Howerton

    Hey Fred,I commented on Albert’s post about this yesterday also, but I think you guys are dead wrong on this issue.When you look at the list of other issues that you put on your policy list above (most of which I agree with), they all have a similar thread (removing bureaucracy) except for this one. If Net Neutrality actually has value to people, we need the people behind it to explain it in clear and decisive terms.To me, the arguments posited by Net Neutrality backers are straight up jingoism and paranoia. The Comcast case perfectly illustrates a situation where the action was beneficial to the vast majority of their users. For most residential broadband deployments are on a shared network currently, and your behavior has a real effect on the experience of your neighbor.What it comes down to for me is the ability of these businesses to address the needs of (all of) their customers and business legitimately. As I asked Albert, what if we had Venture Capital Neutrality, and you had to fund any business that met a specific criteria?There are real issues, like last mile monopoly/duopoly that need to be addressed, but so far the proposed solutions (Net Neutrality) do not even come close to dealing with these root causes of the issue.

    1. McBeese

      “what if we had Venture Capital Neutrality, and you had to fund any business that met a specific criteria?”I would start creating dozens of new businesses that met the criteria and I would become the ‘bit torrent’ of fundees!More seriously, this thread has been a great read.

  25. Prokofy

    Oh, Good God, Fred. It was bad enough when the oppressive Electronic Frontier Foundation — which is all about liberating property and not speech — and the ACLU, cooked up this very bad campaign based on “freedom of expression” and “censorship” as if the right to download Lost and WoW patches is a “civil right” (!).That utterly discredited the cause. People like me who really understand what real free speech and human rights are about are never going to accepte communism dressed up in techno clothing like this. Especially with that obscene grab of public resources and the plan to use Obama domain to take back private property already auctioned off.But Internet *Freedom*? Huh? Freedom is freedom *from* something, like tyranny. What is “oppressing” you that you require the public dollar to build out lines to rural areas for the Google ad agency? And again Fred, why the constant grab for free utilities for your “innovations”? You expect to pay Con Ed for your inventions. Why do you expect to get free broadband?You know, so much of this nonsense comes straight from San Francisco, where the geeks there endlessly whine that they have only two providers, two telecoms AT&T and Comcast they hate with an unruly and unreasonable passion, to the point where one gov 2.0 operative actively wished for 4chan to succeed in doing physical violence to the head of AT&T last year, remember? when their site was down? And the techcrunchers went wild?But you wonder why these Googlians don’t just get Google to put that big fancy broadband experiment *there*. You know, their experiment for which they renamed themselves Topeka on April 1? Do that. And *shut them up*. So that they can stop riling the rest of the country with their excessive bandwidth consumption on all their multiple toys that most people can’t afford or don’t want or need. One well-targeted alternative broadbrand plan *just there, where there are 99 percent of the lobbyists and complainers* could fix this — and we’ll also get a chance to see “socialism in one city” and how that works *cough*. So get the socialists in SF to put your plan in place, Fred, and leave the national policies alone. And you want to do rural and socialism, go to Vermont and try it out there. That way you can do less damage.I’m also really waiting for that profitable part. Am not seeing it. Facebook? Profitable? For, like, more than a quarter? Facebook is like the Soviet Union, selling off its precious metals and hydrocarbons and ultimately, like MySpace, shrinking in size and population ultimately because it can’t sustain itself.So, re: “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”Yikes. Help. Well, put it all in one city and keep it far away from the rest of us, and write when you get work, as they say.And call me if you would like to do something more directly effectively like funding an independent website in a repressive country or paying my salary to raise issues of civilians in armed conflict at the UN at one of my jobs or something like that.I think I have a very good idea here Fred for your “socialism in one city” so I expect a nice royalty check soon : )

    1. raycote

      SO – the public interest = socialism = the big bad wolfSO – do complex organic living systems also = socialism

  26. Morgan Warstler

    Fred, I’m still waiting to actually debate this ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously. Line him up. please.I wrote it all down before. I raised real issues that if you were investing in something, you’d actually go dig around and look at, not just keep asserting the same “facts.”Fact 1: We KNOW (your Harvard hero as well) that new wireless spectrum will not actually provide any true competition for wire line.This knocks out your basic prescription of “more spectrum.” You might gain other minor advantages, but not the main one you start off saying we need from the FCC decision.Fact 2: The only “permission-less” issue we have to date from wire line companies is bit-torrent throttling – which is 99.9% a side issue to “net neutrality.”You are INVITING government to come lay all kinds of permissions all over the web. This is horribly wrong. I feel like I’m watching someone drunk try and get in their car.Let’s use Zynga as an example. I suggest that in your new world, the newly invigorated FTC will charge in destroy the next Zynga within 24 hours of Arrington’s next “investigative scoop”, rather than letting the issue sort itself out – people are made aware, blogs scream, we all debate, the issue is solved. NO GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT. You yourself have recently written about the need to POLICE oneself for fear of things being misconstrued. You like the current pols. Imagine John Ashcroft. Imagine Ed Meese.Fred, have some faith in your thinking here. We do a marvelous job of policing ourselves. We do this without the government in our pie. And Fred, I gotta tell you, its terrifying watching you go through these machinations. This thing we have here is genius, it is still in its infancy, it can topple governments, reign in their power around the globe – as long as we all heed the deep instinct to scream NO whenever the government comes sniffing around the tubes. Vigilance is the price we pay.Look, why can’t you focus on advocating GOV2.0 – use your name to go evangelize head count reduction in government offices through productivity gains – so that the citizens can deal with government entirely through the web. THAT could start 1000 start-ups.Here’s my suggestion: When the Government actually has an impressive web presence, you can convince me and others that they have a real place at the table. Until then, I’ll fight you tooth and nail.

    1. raycote

      “We do a marvelous job of policing ourselves”-self policing-now there is a concept that has a long an glorious history of success?The word self and policing do not belong in the same sentence weather your are talking about government self policing or corporate self policing.We are the monkeys in the middle in this political food fight.Ours is to play these two mega power brokers off against each other so us monkeys get most of the food.Our role is not to play faithful cheerleader for one necessary evil or the other!Other jurisdictions are more effectively integrating the public and private internet infrastructure interests.There is an emerging international competition to realize the efficiencies of the network economy. Your level of presumption about America’s success in the context of international competition is more than cavalier!government bad – corporation goodis just way to simple for todays organically complex realityHere is some important self policing for you:Keep your window of doubt wide open, even your most sacrosanct conclusions should never be elevated to a status level above โ€œworking conclusionsโ€. That window of doubt is your portal to freedom from self delusion. Enlist and develop your โ€œthird eyeโ€ to police that window as if your life depended on it.

      1. Morgan Warstler

        Go read up on Zynga to see my definition of “self-policing.”I don’t think you understand it.

  27. M. Edward (Ed) Borasky

    The problem with “Internet Freedom” or “Net Neutrality” or whatever you want to call it is not in semantics or framing or anything like that. It is, at present, a pitched battle between corporate giants, with the carriers, like Comcast, on one side, and Google on the other. In such a battle, there will be winners and there will be losers. That’s the way capitalism works. The FCC and the FTC and the consumer are caught in the middle.I think Damon Runyon said it best: “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong – but that’s the way to bet!”

  28. John Galt

    Fred,You gotta read (or re-read) Atlas Shrugged, Rand had it right: net neutrality is no way to run a railroad, just ask Dagny Taggart……if a service provider pounds capital into the ground to build a network, they oughta be able to price traffic on it any way they want…….and if the pipes get filled at certain price levels, they’ll either raise prices and/or new service providers will attract capital to build more network and expand the capacity in a given market……profits for everyone and plenty of choice for consumers across a range of pricing tiers…….and wireless spectrum is no different…….some service provider has to buy it and then invest in the network build out………who will do that if their returns are capped by an implicit subsidy paid to accomodate something like net neutrality……Prokofy’s post isn’t all wet, nobody will add network capcity in San Francisco because there’s too much risk the state and local governments will confiscate their profits………free market pricing will find equilbrium levels of capacity and demand………profits are good, A is A, and to quote D’Anconia in closing: “run for your life from any man who says money (profit) is evil, for that is the leper’s bell of an approaching Looter!”……..don’t be a Looter Fred, stay on the side of good and prodigious returns for risk takers……..that’s where you’ve always been……..

    1. fredwilson

      These are monpolies john. If they weren’t, I’d be with you

      1. John Galt

        Successful CLECS (last mile, fiber, fixed and mobile wireless) and independent cable operators who, combined, have nearly 50% market share in most Tier 1 and Tier 2 markets would suggest otherwise……..I’ve been an investor in many of’em………I’m with you about paying ratable pricing to have higher QOS…….that’s how it oughta work……have a gd wknd…..JG

  29. Phanio

    Personally I think that both sides should shut up and let the market handle this. Competition will always prevail. But, when the government or any other group that thinks they know better steps in is when things really get screwed up. Like most issues in this country today – too many hands in the pot.Let the market sort it out โ€“ it will decided (you and I will decide) what is right and what is not!

    1. raycote

      These markets are just to full of friction to have such blind faith in a free market process that does not necessarily apply here.

      1. Phanio

        What do you mean by friction? I rather let my dollar vote count then to have a group who really does not care screw it up. The market will make the hard choices needed here not politicians, groups or individuals who are more worried about their image than doing what is right.

  30. Kevin Vogelsang

    Involvement in policy issues is a good investment of your time. Keep it up.

  31. Guest

    I’m late to this, but couldn’t resist throwing in a thought. If you want to re-frame the issue, I’d think long and hard before settling on “Internet Freedom” as your tagline. To my ear, the word “freedom” has been co-opted recently by right wing loons. To wit: people who believe attempting to provide health care to the uninsured strips America of “freedom”; people who believe invading and occupying Iraq provides “freedom” to Iraqis; people who believe calling French Fries “Freedom Fries” somehow sticks it to the French.The analogy to NYC public transit makes the discussion seem reasonable. This talk about the Freedom Internet and “price of Internet freedom is eternal vigilance” makes it sound like you guys are surrounded by your fire arms, holed up in a heavily fortified compound somewhere in rural Michigan.Just a thought.

  32. Bench Craft Company

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  33. Mark Essel

    Ha you nailed it Charlie, the best way to change something is to start a business to do so. I’m back to corporate entities as the best way of making a social change. Commoditize the opposing force by direct competition and alternatives. Choice, forces fairness. Good stuff man.