The Open Internet and the 2012 Election

Engine Advocacy and NY Tech Meetup are hosting a conversation next Thursday, Oct 25th, from 6pm to 7:30pm, at the NYU Stern School about The Open Internet and the 2012 Election.

They've asked me to participate in this conversation along with Clay Shirky and Susan Crawford. Clay should not be a new name to this community. But if you don't know who Clay is, you can read about him here. Susan was President Obama's Special Assistant for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy for the early part of his first term. You can read more about her here.

Tickets are $10/person and the event is roughly half sold as of 6:45am today. If you want to attend you can get a ticket here.

I am big fans of Clay and Susan, and equally thrilled to support Engine Advocacy and NY Tech Meetup. So I'm looking forward to this event. And of course the topic is timely and important. I hope to see you there next Thursday.


Comments (Archived):

  1. cedricbellet

    typo first line second paragraph (converssation) 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks. Will fix after yoga

  2. andyswan

    Protip: The only entity that can truly “close” the internet is the one you provide with tanks, “collection agents” and jails.Turning control over to the government in order to keep competing corporations in check is the logical equivalent of asking the mob to make sure the local dry-cleaners aren’t taking advantage of senior citizens.

    1. kidmercury


    2. William Mougayar

      For the purpose of clarification, are we talking about “control” or something else related to effectively catching “bad guys”.If the police gives you a speeding ticket if you were speeding, and they decided what the speed limits should be, does it mean they “control” you or the roads?

    3. fredwilson

      That would be a bad idea. A better idea is to foster a hyper competitive open market

      1. Dave Pinsen

        In the spirit of an open market of ideas, might it not have been preferable to include someone who isn’t planning on voting for President Obama in this discussion?

        1. fredwilson

          How do you know who I am planning on voting for?

          1. Dave Pinsen

            You’ve said here you wouldn’t vote for a GOP candidate. I suppose it’s possible you’re planning to vote for a third party candidate, but that seems unlikely given your practicality and your stated concern about Supreme Court nominations.

          2. fredwilson

            i am on the fence about what to do. i will vote though. i think its a responsibility of a citizen to do so.

      2. andyswan

        Which is what happens when uncle Sam keeps his hands to himself 🙂

        1. fredwilson

          Sadly that’s not true in the last mile of internet access. Uncle Sam gave monopolies which is proof of his idiocity (your point). We need him to undo that. Ideally by changing the rules to foster competition in the last mile

          1. andyswan

            Exactly. Monopolies cannot exist (for long) without the aid of government…We are agreeing too much now 🙂

          2. thinkdisruptive

            Monopolies can exist indefinitely if they are smart, with or without government support. For most people, they are easier to support than to fight. The one thing that a government should always do in a capitalist system is ensure that competitors to monopolies are not quashed (that doesn’t mean they have to actively break up monopolies that got there honestly), because a monopoly will always try to regulate competition out of existence.

          3. andyswan

            Name one monopoly that has existed for a significant amount of time without government aid.Your example proves my point… the only way a monopoly stays a monopoly is through government action.

          4. thinkdisruptive

            The government has a history of busting up natural monopolies, and things they define as monopolies that actually aren’t, so it is tough to demonstrate the opposite, and although monopolies don’t need government support to persist, they are naturally lazy and will always ask for intervention to protect their business model on some righteous grounds. Standard Oil would likely still be running things had the government not stepped in (as evidenced by the fact that their progeny still practically do). AT&T would still be blocking progress in telco had the government not broken them up.Of course the government sanctioned AT&T as a monopoly in the early days, but they would have ended up there anyway. It absolutely does not require a government to keep a monopoly alive — they just have to pay attention to potential disruption and either adopt or smother it.

          5. andyswan

            Your stance would have more credibility with at least one example of a long-term monopoly that was not government-aided.I cannot imagine why a marketplace free of government intervention would not produce competition for a profitable monopoly. It would literally be my first target as an entrepreneur.

          6. thinkdisruptive

            There are lots of things in life that can’t be “proven” because they haven’t occurred yet or because the environment we exist in constrains it. Microsoft, for example, was never a true monopoly, but the government still intervened to reduce their market power. It’s worth asking whether Google or Apple would exist today without that intervention (Google because MS would have done to them what they did to Netscape, Apple because Gates gave Apple $150M + guarantee of Office availability and future releases largely to thwart anti-competition accusations). Not saying Microsoft didn’t put some things in their contracts that were outside the bounds of fair play.To demonstrate this, we’d have to create an environment where both these conditions were true:- government didn’t act to break up or handcuff a monopoly- monopoly never sought nor was granted government protection,and, that has never happened.You might try to compete, but it’s clear that a smart monopoly has all the advantages and could easily crush you with “predatory pricing”, compatibility with existing systems and standards, switching costs, throwing money at innovation (and buying innovators), control of distribution, market perception, etc. If I accept your premise, then there is no reason for government to ever act against a monopoly (unless it breaks some other law), which is also ridiculous since monopolies are anathema to free markets which are what make capitalism a justifiable social system (i.e. the public benefits from competition). Innovation and entrepreneurial zeal only offers the potential to compete, it doesn’t guarantee a win.

          7. andyswan

            So you’re saying a monopoly could keep competitors at bay by providing its customers with superior pricing, innovation, compatibility, and availability.Sounds awful.And if they didn’t do those things, they’d be beaten. It’s how markets work.So I will add a key word to my stance: There is no possibility of a COERCIVE monopoly without the aid of government.

          8. thinkdisruptive

            That’s not exactly what I said, but it’s certainly one condition where they could survive indefinitely.Other conditions include:- pricing that is above where fierce competition from multiple equal players would drive it, but low enough that it leaves no oxygen for competitors without a big technology leap (Kodak did this for nearly a century)- buying innovators with threat of squeezing them out of business if they don’t agree- only being incompatible when big technology advances offer order-of-magnitude leaps in price/performance- providing outstanding serviceSo, the monopolist doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough to thwart potential competitors. So, it isn’t quite as absolute and rosy as you paint it. Benevolent dictator might be a good comparison.And, a coercive monopoly can certainly exist unless government intervenes. Your assumption is that coercion is against the law, which it isn’t in all forms or in all countries. Back in the 90s, it was questioned whether as a matter of law, Microsoft’s coercive contracts were illegal and could be prosecuted. Both sides spent billions trying to argue that one, so it isn’t always clear cut. A government doesn’t have to explicitly support it. Turning a blind eye, or not passing laws that make their behaviors illegal is sufficient.btw, incompatibility is a powerful disruptive weapon for competitors, if other conditions are right (it upsets the ecosystem, or makes it irrelevant), so compatibility, in and of itself, doesn’t ensure survival of a monopoly. Just makes it more likely, all things being equal.

  3. kidmercury

    i’m not a fan of susan. she is basically a big government supporter, of the left wing variety (i.e. government will save us from big corporations, if only we made it bigger, etc).neither obama nor romney makes a difference for the internet. they are both going to go along with the cybersecurity scam, as evidenced by their support of the patriot act and NDAA. they both threaten national security with their aggressive, pro-war foreign policy which ultimately places the US at greater risk in all ways (economic warfare, cyberwarfare, 4th generation warfare, etc)this is another reason to vote for gary johnson. he is all about “hands off the internet”. limited government enthusiasts will appreciate johnson is against net neutrality and understands that after all the feel good stories about how it protects us it will ultimately require greater government regulation, which will ultimately translate to an internet that is less free and offers fewer economic is a very misleading word, used primarily for its emotional impact, which is part of why it is so rarely defined.

    1. pointsnfigures

      I like Gary Johnson, but won’t vote for him. Change in politics is glacial. First get a little momo our way, once the glacier starts to move it will move more quickly over time.

    2. fredwilson

      I will try to channel you next Thursday night. Of course the real Kid on stage would be better

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        That would be fun.KId is about #truthAnd you Can’t handle the truth- Jack Nicholson.

        1. jason wright

          “And you Can’t handle the truth- Jack Nicholson”which movie was that?

          1. Diego Sana

            you probably googled it by now, but here’s your answer anyway: a few good men

          2. jason wright

            The search engine is dead. Long live the new search engine, dialog.Thanks 🙂

        2. fredwilson

          I think I can handle it. At least I try hard to handle it

          1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

            I was trying to be funny … let me try one more time …You can handle the TRUTH but you can’t handle the KID.

    3. LE

      I like some of what I see in Johnson, he looks like a solid guy (you know like Mitt).Strategically it’s a big mistake though to run as a libertarian for this office (in this day and time). It creates a negative halo and there are a significant number of people (where “significant” equals enough to create a point disadvantage) that won’t be able to get over that even if he switches parties. (Hard to get the genie back in the bottle.)By the way I know nothing about Johnson’s successful company that he sold – Big J. But it’s possible that the simple ownership of this type of company, when vetted nationally (instead of in NM where he was governor) could create “Mitt like” problems for him when running for national office. Construction is in no way a totally clean type of business to be in, (in general of course), so I would wonder as a potential supporter what types of skeletons might arise in a person who was in that industry. (If he was in the same type of business in NYC for example it would be a non-starter.)

      1. kidmercury

        in order to get the republican nomination you have to be pro war, pro-debt, and pro-deficit spending. that would defeat the purpose.the only real solution is for the people to wake up, but they’re going to need to lose all their money before that happens.

    4. testtest

      im not a fan of clay shirky. last time i saw a video of him it was a regurgitation of memesthe most valuable info is the least obvious. an example is when fred said he’d rather be sure than right. that’s my favourite concept of the past 6 or so months

      1. Wavelengths

        “Rather be sure than right …””Right” is generally defined by those around who are making the judgments.Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss is an interesting example of being “sure.” In the mid-19th century, he was in charge of two obstetrical clinics in Vienna that served indigent women. The First clinic served as a teaching institute for doctors, the Second clinic trained only midwives. At that time the death rate in the First clinic for childbed fever (septicemia) ran as high as 30%, while the death rate in the Second clinic was between 2% and 4%. Semmelweiss went looking for the answer.Semmelweiss concluded that the primary difference was that the doctors-in-training were going from examination of cadavers to examination of pregnant women, and — as was the custom at the time — they did not wash their hands. The midwives training in the Second clinic did not have contact with cadavers.Semmelweiss did not understand the underlying mechanisms, but he instituted a policy of handwashing between examinations that infuriated the medical community of the time. However, death rates dropped dramatically. Semmelweiss wrote and campaigned for general acceptance of his policies but he was met with huge resistance from the medical communities in Europe.As the years passed, he lost his standing in the medical community and his behavior became more erratic, possibly from disease contracted as an obstetric physician, possibly as a result of disappointment over the rejection of his ideas. He died at age 47 after two weeks in a mental asylum, ironically of septicemia.Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister, and others ultimately validated Semmelweiss’ work. The women who survived because of his policies could thank him for being “sure,” although in the context of the time he was not “right.”ddWe should be careful before we dismiss someone else’s off-the-wall ideas as not being “right.”

        1. testtest

          fascinating storyi try to put myself into situations where being right is rewarded — even if it’s against conventionif you rely on other people to determine your fate, you may as well rely on luckin the case of dr semmelweiss, the other doctors held his fate. give me an open market any day of the week. it may be harsh and unforgiving, but at least its equally as fair

          1. Wavelengths

            I think it’s fair to think of medicine as the high-tech of the time. Pioneers trying to understand systems and formalize their understanding.

          2. testtest

            still is, imo. it uses the tech of time to progress.medicine is starting to (already is?) becoming a data science. which is a good thing, as it can progress at the rate of moore’s lawin the case of dr semmelweiss, if he had been rewarded directly for helping patients recover, rather than by the node of other doctors, he would have lived out the rest of his life more gloriously.

        2. JamesHRH

          RIght = ‘I say this will happen and it happens.’Semmelweiss was right, its just that he never knew.Being right don’t feed the baby sometimes and neither does being sure.

  4. William Mougayar

    In the spirit of openness, will the event be livestreamed?

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t know

      1. William Mougayar

        I asked Jessica on the meetup site, and this was her response:Jessica Lawrence:It will most likely be taped and posted quickly afterwards, but unfortunately we don’t have the budget for livestreaming for this event (since it is an extra event outside of our regular venue)

        1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

          Budget is a word of convenience … it is not available when you want it … and it is available in plenty when you don’t want it… and can be used anyways..

          1. William Mougayar

            Maybe one of the streaming companies like @Livestream can help?

  5. takingpitches

    I couldn’t find a fuller description of the agenda for the event.By Open Internet, do the organizers mean net neutrality?

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t think so

      1. takingpitches

        Got it — It’s meant to be a broader discussion.No one asked me, but I say that policy should do things that open the racetracks for ideas, talent, and capital (and increasingly broadband) and make sure the roads are paved, so you can have the best race of ideas and execution among entrepreneurs and their teams as possible.Among my top issues:If the best talent and ideas want to come race over here, reform immigration so it allows them in and allows them to stay. In the NBA, the game is better because talent wants to play on these courts; similar idea in technology. Chile (per the Economist this week) shouldn’t be attracting entrepreneurs over us.Dial way back on the software/internet patents, so the ideas can run the race. The Trolls and big tech shouldn’t be able to squash new ideas that they fear based on owning a concept. Bezos stepped up a little on this issue this week.Finally, it’s not just big govt that can choke off entry into the race, private enterprise is capable of doing this as well. One of the biggest threats I see is the coordinated move to pay per use pricing for broadband access by the wireless broadband oligopoly because they have run out of innovative ideas.It’s not just Facebook with a mobile problem, WE have a mobile problem! A lot of innovation today is dependent on users giving services a try and not being deterred by counting bytes.In response, if the FCC even saw this as an issue, it could open up more white space. I think the SoftBank acquisition might be good and might light a fire with Sprint and revitalize it to aggressively go after the big 2. Masayoshi Son apparently does not play for #3.Maybe we need even more. And for the right on this issue, it is public spectrum they are using which the government has given them a monopoly over While they have paid for it, if it’s not being used in the public interest, the government should have the ability to take it back as leverage to support the whole innovative ecosystem.

        1. fredwilson

          I agree with you on these issuea

          1. takingpitches

            Cool! I bought a ticket and look forward to the panel.Also, I am going to re-send an email re: something I am working on. With your expertise on liquidity in new networks/marketplaces, it would mean a lot to get your thoughts/advice/reaction on the path we are going down. Really do appreciate it. Thanks a million.

  6. John Revay

    Thanks for sharing,Signed up – I will try and say hello to you if I see you.Sounds like a very timely topic

  7. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    tool makers love to make tools.rule makers never tired of making rules to stop the tools which works not in their favor.Open Internet is one of them….among many things which can be Open.

  8. ShanaC

    Going to be a nice contrast to tonight (different lecture about the election)

  9. Austin Clements

    Catching up on the last few days of AVC. Glad this event is coming to NYU to speak on this. I recently wrote an article on the NYU Entrepreneurs blog called “This November I’m Voting for Tech” which touched on a few of the points discussed above: