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Why The Congressional Review Act Is A Complete Charade

“Nearly every day brings new stories of children being tracked, Russians being indicted, and online-fueled hate exploding into real-world violence – all while the big tech platforms that enable this chaos report record earnings and shrug off Congressional oversight without breaking a sweat,” writes Mike Montgomery for Multichannel News. “The American people are demanding comprehensive action to rein in these giant platforms, protect our privacy and permanently keep cyberspace open and free – with 80% believing the big platforms haven’t done enough to secure their networks. Nearly 60% are concerned the government won’t do enough to solve the problem. Yet, amazingly, the only internet bill on the agenda in Congress is a backward-looking resolution that will actually reduce our privacy protections.”

Here’s why Montgomery calls the Congressional Review Act, which is being billed as a net neutrality-protection measure, “a complete charade.”

 

Sacramento Leads The 5G Way

Mobile Phone Tower

This story originally appeared in Fox & Hounds.

By Kish Rajan

Later this year, the country’s first 5G-capable city will come online. 5G will enable residents to download a full movie in under 10 seconds, enable gamers to play multiplayer video games from their smartphones with zero lag, and connect millions of home appliances – 5G will even connect our pets.

There is little doubt that 5G will change what we think of as being truly “connected,” but who will get it first? If you guessed the usual suspects – Silicon Valley, San Francisco – you would be wrong.

Verizon has named Sacramento the first of 3 to 5 cities where it plans to launch 5G service later this year. And while Sacramento doesn’t leap to mind as an innovative metropolis, the city has positioned itself to be amongst the first to roll out a future-defining 5G network.

Over the past two years alone, we have seen data traffic increase a whopping 238%. There are currently 262 million smartphones in use across the US, in addition to another 180 million connected devices (i.e. fitness trackers). According to projections, our insatiable appetite for wireless is just getting started.

This reality is why the move to 5G must happen quickly. 5G networks can handle 100 times more capacity and move data 10 times faster than the current 4G network. 5G’s speed and capacity is what will enable the network to keep up with current demand, while also powering new innovations such as autonomous vehicles and smart energy grids.

Further, this technology has the potential to supercharge California’s economy. A report released by Accenture last year estimated that 5G will result in $275 billion in investments, create three million new jobs, and grow GDP by over $500 billion nationwide.

Sacramento is leading the way by adopting common sense policy and embracing next generation infrastructure deployment. 5G depends on the robust deployment of “small cells.” Small cells are small, low-powered antennas – sometimes called nodes – usually about the size of a pizza box, attached to existing infrastructure such as utility poles or streetlights.

While 5G is fast, its higher frequencies don’t travel as well, which means network density is an absolute necessity. For example, the Golden 1 Center will require dozens of small cells.

It’s time for others in the state to learn from Sacramento and embrace the future – starting with small cells.

Why California’s Only Internet Regulation Is An Empty Promise

Zucker Punch

The following piece originally appeared in The Mercury News.

By Mike Montgomery

Californians are in danger of being put in position to make the same mistake Facebook did: trusting in something that promises one thing but delivers another.

It’s clear, as founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologetically told Congress, that Facebook made mistakes and didn’t do enough to prevent its data “from being used for harm.”

But at the root of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the company used data from 87 million Facebook users in an effort to deviously manipulate voters, was broken promises.

Facebook was promised by the original collector that the data was to be used only for “academic research.”  It wasn’t.  The collector promised not to sell or share the data with third parties.  It didn’t.  When confronted, the parties promised to destroy the data.  They did no such thing.

Promises are like that. They don’t always deliver the goods.

That’s why Californians must be skeptical of the promises from backers of a ballot measure that appears headed for the November ballot. They have given their proposal the apple-pie name of the “Consumer Right to Privacy Act,” and are promising that its enactment would improve the lives of Californians.

Let us do what Facebook didn’t, and seriously examine the validity of that promise.

For starters, the Internet isn’t called the “world wide web” for nothing. It seamlessly crosses continents and oceans. It isn’t practical, possible or even desirable for California to attempt to wall itself off from the rest of the world by adopting a set of regulations that apply only from the Sierra to the Pacific.

Businesses that offer goods and services online – essentially every company in the world – cannot effectively operate if required to follow conflicting rules in a multitude of places.

It also must be noted that much of the use of personal data is, in fact, welcomed by consumers because of the convenience it makes possible.

For example, travel sites such as Expedia and Travelocity are able to put together cost-effective packages for air travel, hotels and car rentals because they can share with providers relevant personal data about their customers, such as their names. We are able to use how-did-we-ever-live-without-it services such as Google Maps or Waze because we agree to share our location.

Because this initiative prevents companies from denying service if a consumer declines to share requested information, it’s not inconceivable that those services would have to shut down in California.

That scenario may seem far-fetched, but consider the financial risks companies would have to take to conduct online business in California under this proposed initiative. It would make it possible for any individual to sue for violations without even having to show they were harmed in any way. It would mandate a minimum damage award of $1,000 per consumer, per violation.

In addition, the initiative would require any company that does business in California to provide a personal, detailed response within 45 days to any consumer who requests information about the company’s use of personal information. Just the cost of complying with that requirement could persuade businesses that provide goods and services online to steer clear of this state.

This initiative also promises a heightened right to privacy, which may be desirable, but not at any cost. For instance, a ban on cellphone videos would ensure more privacy, but at a cost that is clearly unacceptable.

Unacceptable also are only-in-California regulations that would reduce our access to desirable services, restrict our connection with the global economy and unduly hamper the technology sector that has fueled California’s robust economic expansion.

When someone makes a promise it’s best to check it out to see whether they can deliver. In the case of those who are promising a better future by promoting this initiative, the truth is they will deliver just the opposite.

We Oppose AB 2212 California Retail Food Code

April 17, 2018

The Honorable Jim Wood, Chair
Assembly Committee on Health
California State Capitol, Room 6005
Sacramento, CA 95814

Subject: AB 2212 California Retail Food Code – OPPOSE

Dear Chairperson Wood,

We write to express our concerns regarding AB 2212 (Ting) as it seeks to amend Section 113985 of the Health and Safety Code and add subscriptions-based meal delivery services to the existing definition of “retail;” a change that would include food processors that sell direct to consumers. We would note the language in AB 2212 is the exact same language approach used last year in AB 1461, which Governor Brown vetoed just six months ago.

As a technology advocacy organization, we seek to support California’s advancement as a state where innovative ideas blossom into new industries, companies and jobs while maintaining well-crafted rules and regulations to protect the public.

California’s food processing industry is evolving rapidly to keep pace with consumer demand and competition in the marketplace. Applying regulations as outlined in AB 1461 and mirrored in AB 2212 will inhibit this industry from modernizing and maintaining a competitive advantage with other agriculture states. AB 2212 will only encourage food processors to locate their facilities outside our state and ship to California customers from places like Nevada and Texas. Additionally, the language in AB 2212 will not only directly impact California-based food processors currently package foods for this intended purpose, it has the potential to impact all food processors and stifle their ability to expand their business model to include direct-to-consumer services.

AB 2212 is not necessary as food processors and manufacturers are already heavily regulated by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) as they often distribute food throughout the contiguous United States (including those that do so via subscription and provide recipes).

In contrast, the Food Handler Card program is a retail requirement enforced by local public health officers on the county level. It makes little sense, and would be impossible, for one food processor to be subject to the oversight of California’s 58 different local health

agencies, especially given that they are already required to comply with stricter food- safety and training standards enforced by CDPH and FDA.

Governor Brown recognized this in his veto message of AB 1461 last year where he encouraged the Legislature to work with the Department of Public Health and interested stakeholders to ensure food safety is protected and innovation is encouraged.

CALinnovates is fundamentally opposed to AB 2212 as it stifles innovation by adding excessive and unwarranted regulation to food processors that sell direct to consumers. We respectfully urge the Assembly Committee on Health to oppose AB 2212.

Sincerely,

Kish Rajan
Chief Evangelist

CC:
Assembly Member Mayes (Vice Chair)
Assembly Member Aguiar-Curry
Assembly Member Bigelow
Assembly Member Bonta
Assembly Member Burke
Assembly Member Carillo
Assembly Member Flora
Assembly Member Limon
Assembly Member McCarty
Assembly Member Nazarian
Assembly  Member Rodriguez
Assembly Member Santiago
Assembly Member Thurmond
Assembly Member Waldron

 

Unblocking 5G: New FCC Rules Make it Easier to Build Fast Networks

By Kish Rajan

Source: IBT

The Federal Communications Commission last week voted to kick-start 5G wireless networks in the United States by exempting them from some reviews that hinder installation.

It’s about time.

So far, the U.S. lags far behind the world leader — China — at getting 5G networks up and running. “There is a worldwide race to lead in 5G, and other nations are poised to win,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel acknowledged in January. It’s an embarrassing place for the country that invented the internet. But more than that, our hesitancy to streamline the process for installing vital infrastructure is costing us money, jobs and security.

Today, we’re coasting along on 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks. Experts warned as far back as 2011 that 4G would be maxed out within four years because data demand was growing too fast to be accommodated by 4G bandwidth. And it’s not slowing. In the U.S., data usage will be seven times greater in 2021 than it was in 2016. By 2020, more than 50 billion devices and 212 billion sensors will be connected to wireless networks. All this data is making 4G networks crowded, slow and spotty.

The annoying buffering while streaming video, the random dead zones and the snail-like pace of sending photos over text can be attributed to our inefficient and overwhelmed 4G networks. The more people using it, the slower it goes, which is why it’s often difficult to do anything on your phone in Los Angeles unless you’re on Wi-Fi.

5G networks are much more efficient at using spectrum. They’ll increase capacity 100 times or more over 4G and be able to move data at least 10 times faster, allowing for all sorts of real-time applications. And that’s just the beginning. 5G is vital to improved safety, reliability and economic development.

According to a 2017 Accenture report, smart cities and Internet of Things (IoT) improvements led by 5G capabilities have the potential to create $160 billion in benefits and savings. Then there’s the economic boost of building 5G networks. Accenture predicts that 5G could result in $275 billion in investments, create 3 million new jobs nationally and grow GDP by $500 billion.

Small cells can be easier and cheaper to install than traditional cell towers, but they rely on density to provide fast, reliable data service. A college football stadium, for example, needs 40 to 60 cells to provide full coverage. Unfortunately, building a 5G network isn’t as easy as it should be because there’s no federal standard. That means each state and municipality has its own series of complicated, confusing and contradictory rules covering installation.

Industry is prepared to deploy hundreds of thousands of small cells on utility poles throughout the country. But it can take as long as a year, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, to navigate through cumbersome local and state regulations designed to govern 200-foot cell towers. These unobtrusive small cell solutions simply should not be compared to traditional cell towers.

The FCC ruling is a good start, as it will eliminate some of the repetitive and unnecessary review processes. In fact, Accenture estimates it will save $1.6 billion. But states need to get on board, too. It’s in their own best interests and those of their constituents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of American households now are cellphone only, which means they rely entirely on wireless networks for service. That explains why 80 percent of 911 calls are mobile. 5G networks will be a boon to first responders — and the people seeking help.

In California, despite being the national epicenter of innovation, we’re lagging behind. Last year a bill that would have helped the 5G industry was stopped due to concerns from local municipalities about installation of the cells. While local governments’ concerns most certainly need to be addressed, we can’t allow the 5G conversion to become mired in red tape.

It’s time for California to embrace 5G technology. As the world’s sixth-largest economy, California cannot simply keep pace with the rest of the country; it must instead set the national and global example. Let’s get to work.

Kish Rajan is chief evangelist for CALinnovates.

CALinnovates Statement on 5G Access

A statement from CALinnovates Executive Director Mike Montgomery:

“In today’s booming digital economy, fast and reliable internet connectivity is an absolute necessity, as nearly every industry job depends on it. Keeping up with the global sprint to 5G will mean the difference between U.S. innovation surging or falling behind. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr’s common-sense approach to removing regulatory roadblocks will promote 5G access for every American. It’s about time.”

Net Neutrality Redux: Americans Want Certainty; See Tech Giants and ISPs in Similar Light

Sixty-Two Percent of Americans Are Either Unsure or Believe Tech Companies and ISPs Are about the Same When It Comes to Protecting Privacy

San Francisco, CA, December 11, 2017 – After more than a decade of squabbling over so-called Net Neutrality rules, Americans want the issue settled once and for all to create certainty, according to a new survey by technology advocacy group CALinnovates.

Sixty-one percent of Americans, for example, report that creating regulatory certainty is important for the future of the internet and innovation.

But underlying that desire to settle the issue, according to the survey, is a growing sense that the technology companies driving the net neutrality debate aren’t different from their internet service provider opponents. The survey of 1,116 Americans found that:

  • Only slightly more than 1 in 3 Americans saw a difference between tech companies such as Google and Facebook and ISPs such as Verizon when it came to protecting their privacy. In fact, 62 percent reported that they are about the same or are not sure.
  • When it came to which companies they are more likely to trust, ISPs such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast (20%) were slightly ahead of tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter (18%). Overall, 50 percent of Americans said they trust or distrust them about equally.
  • And when it came to which of the sectors had the most to gain from net neutrality, it was again even. Sixteen percent of Americans thought tech companies because they want to maintain access as cheaply as possible, while the same amount said ISPs because they don’t want rules imposed on them.

“Americans intuitively understand that this never-ending game of policy pingpong over net neutrality must come to an end so consumers and the tech ecosystem can move on and focus fully on making magic,” said Mike Montgomery, Executive Director of CALinnovates. “With yet another FCC vote ahead, it’s time to bring this to a conclusion so we can get on with the business of innovating and delivering services consumers want.”

What the survey data reflects is the issues’ complexity and Americans’ struggle to understand its impact. Nearly the same number of Americans said they don’t understand the issue (45 percent) as said they do (48 percent).

But even if many don’t completely grasp net neutrality , they are looking for leadership from Washington to sort it out once and for all. And whatever happens, 82 percent of Americans want the FCC, which is slated to vote on net neutrality rules shortly, to be transparent about the proposed rule changes in advance of a vote.

The CALinnovates survey of 1,116 Americans was conducted from Nov. 27-Nov. 30 and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

ABOUT CALINNOVATES

CALinnovates is a non-partisan technology advocacy coalition of tech companies, founders, funders and nonprofits.

Congress Must Answer the Call for Net Neutrality

A statement from CALinnovates Executive Director Mike Montgomery:

“Hopefully this puts to rest the FCC’s recurring role in this decade-plus long tragicomedy and forces Congress to deliver a lasting solution that will provide innovators and consumers the clarity, certainty and protections they require to navigate the digital era in which we live.

“In releasing the white copy rules for public review three weeks before the Commission’s vote, Chairman Pai has removed a lingering opaqueness that has obscured the openness the public deserves. Such transparency is far overdue at the 83-year-old FCC.

“Americans overwhelmingly favor a permanent law over regulations that can be changed from administration to administration. The power – and responsibility – to make those rules sits unquestionably on the shoulders of Congress. Despite ongoing Congressional gridlock, legislators must answer today’s call to develop clear, bipartisan rules that guarantee bright line protections.”

The Personal Enterprise Economy Lets Us All Be Entrepreneurs

By Kish Rajan

Imagine setting out to be a wedding photographer or a dog trainer as little as 10 years ago. These kinds of jobs required enormous effort to get off the ground. Often people working as sole proprietors had to not only be great at their jobs, they had to be marketers and book keepers as well. It was enough of a barrier to keep plenty of people in unfulfilling, and often low paying, jobs.

Today that’s changing. Platforms like Thumbtack give these kinds of professionals a digital space where they can easily start their businesses. Thumbtack brings the customer leads to the pros and then facilitates payments handling both the marketing and the book keeping.

That means that people who might have previously been afraid to follow their dreams can now start their own businesses. People in dead-end jobs can find ways to forge their own path.

Technological advances have enabled people to turn their passions into their livelihoods by making it easier to connect with customers. Now, benefits, licensing and other necessities of doing business need to follow suit.

Postmates is having a similar effect in the restaurant industry.

A decade ago, starting a small bakery or restaurant was an almost insane endeavor. Margins at food businesses are notoriously thin and while the right location can get you plenty of foot traffic, it can also cost more than many budding entrepreneurs can afford.

With Postmates, a small, out of the way restaurant has as much of a chance to thrive as one in a better location. As long as a Postmates driver can get there, the restaurant can attract online diners who want food delivered to their homes.

We hear a lot about how automation is hurting jobs but we hear a lot less about how technology is helping people who are building businesses in the service industry. This is a regular topic of discussion between the tech industry and members of the California Legislative Technology and Innovation Caucus.

The truth is that the nature of work has been changing for many years—long before companies like Uber and Airbnb came along. While layoffs were once a big problem for people who worked in manufacturing, today more people are quitting than getting fired. While politicians might bluster about returning to a mid-century economy, workers on the ground are quickly adjusting to the new reality.

What are often called gig economy companies are making up the difference. I prefer to call this sector the personal enterprise economy because what it’s really doing is giving everyone, no matter what your skill, a new way to build a business.

On Thumbtack, for example, two-thirds of the professionals on the platform work full time. That means these aren’t people scrambling to make ends meet from a second job. They are entrepreneurs who have built their own businesses often doing what they love. The service is available in all but one county in the United States making it a truly democratizing force.

These new technology platforms are giving people new ways to work and creating new opportunities. To pretend they are actually the forces destroying jobs is misread the tea leaves.

But we can do more to help people in this new economy succeed.

As we move into the future of work, government and businesses need to think about how to help workers succeed in the new economy. Benefits need to be decoupled from corporations. Licensing should not be tied to a specific small municipality. Professionals should be able to easily ply their trade across country lines. And training and retraining need to become high priority.

We are just at the beginning of this conversation but it’s crucial that we continue talking—and listening to new perspectives. That’s why tomorrow, CALinnovates, along with TechNet, Senator Cannella and Assemblymember Gray, is hosting the inaugural Valley to Valley Forum at UC Merced.

If You Build It … 5G Networks Will Make Life Better

By Kish Rajan

U.S. consumers like to think we have the best of everything when it comes to the internet — didn’t we build it?

But we are lagging far behind other countries when it comes to building 5G networks. China just this month set a new industry record when it exceeded a throughput of 19 Gbps in 5G trials, on the way to a nationwide rollout of 5G by 2020.

5G-based technologies can have a vast impact on mobile connectivity in densely-populated areas and on the Internet of Things. Mobile data traffic worldwide is almost 800 million times higher than 15 years ago. By 2020, more than 50 billion devices and 212 billion sensors will be connected to network services.

Right now, China is on the cutting edge of 5G technology. Why aren’t we seeing the same in the U.S.? While several states are flirting with 5G networks, there’s no policy — and seemingly no interest — in getting one up and running nationwide.

And yet 5G can unlock enormous economic growth, help grow new businesses and jobs, improve transportation, save energy and greatly improve our infrastructure. According to an Accenture report, IoT improvements have the potential to create $160 billion in benefits and savings. Then there’s the economic boost of just building 5G networks. Accenture predicts that 5G could result in $275 billion in investments, creating 3 million new jobs nationally and growing GDP by $500 billion.

But nothing will happen unless we encourage the growth of 5G networks and eliminate outdated regulations. 5G requires 10 to 100 times more small cell antennas than a 4G network. Many municipalities are resisting them with long wait times for permits, unreasonable fees and conflicting regulations.

These small cells, about the size of a briefcase, typically are installed on utility poles. They have less range than a typical tower, but serve more users faster. They are easier and cheaper to install than large cell towers, and rely on density to provide fast data service. A college football stadium, for example, needs 40 to 60 of them to provide full coverage.

Virginia has made the most progress with new rules that make building a 5G network easier. Small cell antennas now are allowed statewide on lamp posts and utility poles. California, Florida, Texas, Minnesota, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana and Iowa are all looking at similar bills. Washington State is considering a bill that would streamline permitting and cap fees as a way to lay the groundwork for 5G networks there.

We also need national standards for using unlicensed spectrum to ensure a high quality of service and low interference. Broadband spectrum unlicensed by the FCC can be used by wireless operators as a relief valve for data traffic to speed up clogged pipes.

But for now, patchwork local regulations and the lack of a concerted, consistent national effort to build 5G networks mean U.S. consumers will be stuck with an outdated technology while we struggle to improve phone service and the backbone for smart cities, more efficient agriculture and even self-driving cars.

 

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