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.”

CALinnovates’ Statement on DC Court’s Denial of Title II Stay

The following statement can be attributed to CALinnovates’ Executive Director Mike Montgomery:

“This is the first of what will be many court decisions with regard to Title II and Net Neutrality. Unfortunately, these decisions will take several years and leave a great deal of uncertainty in their wake – uncertainty that will hinder innovation, business planning and ultimately the growth of the Internet and the future of the new economy.

“Today’s legal decision changes nothing about the policy imperative, which is why it is essential for Congress to take action in a bipartisan fashion to settle the issue around Net Neutrality once and for all in a way that moves beyond Title II and takes a 21st-century approach to technology policy.”

The 2016 Net Neutrality Time Bomb

(Special to Medium)

No matter who wins the next presidential election, Net Neutrality isn’t secure without legislation.

Elections aren’t always a good thing (I know that sounds un-American but hear me out…)

Elections are the bedrock of our democracy and one of the many things that make this country great. If an elected leader isn’t cutting it, the voters have the opportunity to kick him or her out of office every few years. That’s powerful stuff.

But when it comes to Net Neutrality, the very nature of elections puts the Internet at risk. Thanks to recent action by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Net Neutrality is now the province of the FCC.

On January 20, 2016, the nation’s new President will be inaugurated and he (or she) will appoint a new FCC Chairman to replace current Chairman Tom Wheeler. That person will have an outsized influence on the future of Net Neutrality and he (or she) may decide not to enforce the current rules or to change them all together. Everything is riding on the next President’s feeling about Net Neutrality. Although the campaign season is just getting started, we’re already getting a look at who the likely candidates will be and where they stand on Internet freedom.

Read the full article here: https://medium.com/@calinnovates/the-2016-net-neutrality-time-bomb-6bac50e0b7ab

FCC Commissioner to Tech Industry: It’s Time to Reinvent Textbooks, Teaching

FCC’s Jessica Rosenworcel (L), General Catalyst’s Hemant Taneja (C), Class Dojo’s Sam Chaudhary (R)

FCC Commissioner to Tech Industry: It’s Time to Reinvent Textbooks, Teaching

After increasing spending by $1.5 billion on Internet broadband projects for schools FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel asks the tech industry to innovate for education.

SAN FRANCISCO — On the heels of its Dec. 19 decision to raise Internet connectivity funding for schools by $1.5 billion, the Federal Communications Commission urged Silicon Valley to couple funding with innovative educational material.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel spoke to the audience of tech entrepreneurs at Airbnb’s San Francisco headquarters on Jan. 8, highlighting the FCC’s recent efforts and encouraging the digital disruption within teaching and the textbook industry. The event was hosted by the tech advocacy group CALinnovates.

Click here to read the rest of the story in GovTech.

Peer-to-Peer Economy Could Benefit from Better, Not More, Regulation

In October, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors did something very smart; by a vote of 7 to 4, it made Airbnb legal.

In some ways, this was not news. The fact that the room rental service had been technically illegal in the city did not stop thousands of homeowners and travelers from taking advantage of the Internet platform. In fact, as many as 5,000 San Francisco rentals are available on Airbnb on any given day. But the short-term rentals were violating city laws that classified them as businesses and therefore not allowed in residential zones. The new law creates a safer environment for Airbnb users and will contribute millions to the city’s tax coffers.

San Francisco is an example other cities and states need to follow. They need to both clear a path for new entrants and protect the health and safety of consumers.

This does not mean following New York’s lead. The New York attorney general recently came down hard on Airbnb. A report from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, based on subpoenaed information, showed that 72 percent of all Airbnb listings in New York City are considered illegal under the state’s Multiple Dwelling Law or city zoning laws. Those rentals accounted for approximately
$304 million in revenue over the past four years. Furthermore, Airbnb is big business in New York where more than 100 renters own more than 10 units each and illegally generate millions of dollars in revenue.

Read the rest at Techwire

Title II: How the FCC Can Save Net Neutrality and Still Ruin the Internet

Prolonged discussions of Federal Communications Commission regulations are typically about as stimulating as a fistful of Ambien — except when it comes to net neutrality.

With the FCC poised to issue new rules governing how Internet service providers manage and price the traffic that flows through their networks, Americans woke up and spoke up so loudly that they crashed the agency’s website last month. The million-plus comments from concerned citizens were the most the FCC has ever received during a proposed rule’s public comment period — and just a few hundred thousand shy of the number of complaints that poured in after Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction.” When we’re comparing tech regulations to Super Bowl nipple slips, you know we’re in a different kind of debate.

You probably haven’t had a chance to read all 1,067,779 comments. Neither have I. But most support an outcome preserving the wide-open Internet that birthed our current era of innovation, transformation and disruption. The question now is how to achieve this.

The debate so far has been oversimplified: Are you for net neutrality or against it? That reductive framing may lead us to embrace a solution that doesn’t solve the problem.

From where I sit at CALinnovates, representing tech companies dependent on the open Internet to survive, this debate is incredibly important. Disruptors like ride-share platform Sidecar and conference-call service Speek shouldn’t be forced to bid against deep-pocketed giants — or anyone, for that matter — for their share of bandwidth. Nor should they be forced to adapt to regulations that would suppress new ideas or hamstring the entrepreneurs who hatch them.

They, along with countless other startups and aspiring innovators, agree: We need an outcome that preserves the openness of the Internet.

Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. Let me explain. The leading proposal in Washington to achieve that goal is to reclassify broadband providers as “telecommunications services.” This would allow the FCC to regulate providers using authority granted it under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

As you have undoubtedly noticed, the Communications Act of 1934 was passed in 1934. That means the FCC is gathering input as it considers adopting the same legislative framework for the Internet that existed back when “wireless” meant the hand crank on your grandparents’ AM radio.

Title II turned our nation’s telephone system — a single network operated by a single company, Ma Bell — into a highly regulated utility, just like water and electric companies. While they helped protect consumers from the excesses of a corporate monopoly, Title II’s restraints hardly made that phone network an innovative one.

Ask your parents: Under Title II, innovation in telecom meant being able to buy a different color of the same phone chosen by the monopoly at a price set by the government. This same law can’t accommodate today’s sprawling, bustling, magically fragmented Internet, a miracle of technology unimaginable in 1934 — or even in 1996, when the act was updated for the “modern” era.

By turning the Internet into a utility, we’ll bleed tech innovation with a thousand paper cuts. Would we even know what an iPhone is if Steve Jobs had to run his pricing models past the FCC? Would Twitter be fomenting revolution if Jack Dorsey needed to check with regulators about what kind of data can be shared online and by whom?

It sounds far-fetched, but that’s how it would work. Under Section 214 of Title II, common carriers have to ask for approval before discontinuing nonperforming platforms or launching new ones.

Shoehorning Internet companies into Title II won’t just slow Silicon Valley down to Beltway-at-rush-hour speed; it will also render impossible a great many things that have become part of our daily routines, like using on-demand services from location-based smartphone apps.

Under Section 222 of Title II, companies have a duty to protect the confidentiality of customers’ proprietary network information. Sounds benign, right? Well, it means wireless location data could no longer be shared with Internet companies for mapping or advertising. Location-based companies would be limited by, in the regulators’ lyrical stylings, the “use or disclosure” of “call location information concerning the user of a commercial mobile service.” In plain English, that means companies like dating service Tinder, car navigation service Waze and ride-sharer Uber could soon become relics of the past. At the least, they would have far higher hurdles and costs in launching and attracting investment capital.

The big losers in all this would very likely be startups and the consumers they seek to serve. For large, established digital companies, these new regulations would probably just be an inconvenience. For startups that don’t have the resources to fight Title II classification, or the in-house legal teams to interpret the new requirements, the rule changes would be a death knell.

Before we trade the devil we know for the devil our grandparents knew, we should pause to ask ourselves whether legally defining the Internet as a utility will keep it both open and innovative — or act as a drag on creativity and growth.

I’m pro-net neutrality, but anti-1934-style strangulation. Where does that leave me? According to the approaches under consideration, I may soon be a man without a country. Good thing the Internet, at least for now, doesn’t require a passport.

 

Mike Montgomery is the executive director of CALinnovates, a San Francisco-based non-profit advocacy concern whose members include high-tech companies, political and thought leaders, and entrepreneurs.

This piece originally ran in The Huffington Post