Category Archives: Blog

Regulating the Internet like a utility will leave us with leaky pipes

Believe it or not, the most frustrating aspect of living in California these days isn’t the traffic, it’s the water. We’re in the third year of a drought. And despite the #HellaStorm pounding the state with much-needed rain, politicians are constantly (and correctly) admonishing us to cut back on water use whenever we can, because these rains aren’t likely to continue.

And yet several times over the past few months, there have been giant water main breaks that dump millions of gallons of water onto the street, water that is completely wasted. Last summer, a pipe burst near UCLA dumping 75,000 gallons per minute onto the street until workers from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) could shut it down. More recently, a water main break in Malibu shut down parts of the busy Pacific Coast Highway because the water pounding the street created a sink hole after spewing thousands of gallons down the drain.

It’s no secret that we’re dealing with antiquated pipes and a bureaucratic system that has been slow to make much-need upgrades and repairs.

Now imagine if the Internet was managed the same way. If instead of innovators constantly looking for better and faster ways to move data, we had the government overseeing the connections that form the backbone of the Internet.

We’re risking that reality. Last month President Obama put forward his vision for net neutrality — and it involved regulating the Internet as a public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934. Under this scenario, the Internet would be treated like electricity, gas – and yes, water. With these rules come burdensome regulations and bureaucratic oversight – the kind of red tape that can stop innovators cold and dry up the private sector investment dollars that are fueling our Internet-based world today.

I’m a firm believer in net neutrality. Innovators will struggle to excel if they have to deal with so-called “fast lanes” where Internet service providers charge certain users more to prioritize their data. It’s important that the playing field remains level. But that isn’t happening, and the Internet is working as it was designed to with consumers reaping the rewards.

With hypothetical harms as justification, treating the Internet like a utility is not the right path to net neutrality. Let’s take a look at the way the government manages the pipes that carry water. Martin Adams, the senior assistant general manager of LADWP water system recently defended LA’s average of three pipe leaks per day. In an interview with the KPCC radio show Take Two Adams said:

“The three a day turns out to be not that much. But in a city the size of LA where we have enough pipe that stretches from here to New York and back–about 7,000 miles of pipe in the street–having that amount of leaks per day is really a pretty good record.”

According to Adams, as much as 25% of all LA pipes are getting to the point where they need to be replaced. Many are almost 100 years old. The water department has ramped up to replacing 25 to 30 miles of pipe per year.

Now imagine that kind of performance and maintenance record applied to the Internet: aging infrastructure and wiring that breaks down regularly; a year-by-year replacement program that slowly addresses only the most severe failures.

If the government can’t efficiently and proactively protect and upgrade the pipes that carry our most-important resource, can we trust it with the Internet?

Private industry invests nearly $50 billion per year on tech infrastructure. Are we willing to risk that investment drying up if red tape discourages this private investment?

We need a better option than regulating the Internet under Title II. President Obama’s plan is not law. Rather it was a suggestion to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and his fellow commissioners who are now tasked with figuring out how to maintain net neutrality without impeding innovation and growth. That’s not easy, and given the toxic nature of the debate, it’s not an enviable task either.

The right solution is one that preserves net neutrality (no blocking, no discrimination, no paid prioritization, and full transparency) but also encourages massive build out of what venture capitalist Marc Andreessen calls “more/better/faster Internet to more people in new/different ways.” Busted water pipes today could be the equivalent of busted Internet pipes tomorrow.

Ask anyone in California and they’ll tell you: utilities do not inspire innovation.

On Ridesharing

 

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The following statement can be attributed to Mike Montgomery, executive director of CALinnovates

Ridesharing companies make great efforts to meet stringent rules of the road as determined by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which has taken on an important leadership role to create a framework for these companies and consumers to coexist. These rules are comprehensive and exhaustive.

Ridesharing companies should – and do – utilize a best practices approach to conducting background checks on drivers in order to ensure consumer safety. Despite this, certain non-CPUC lawmakers have called upon the industry to do it their way or face the wrath of litigation.

CALinnovates urges these lawmakers to adopt a constructive meet-and-confer approach that balances the number one priority of consumer safety with the economic and consumer benefits of these platforms. CALinnovates has long advocated such an approach, which would be far more results oriented than governing – and litigating – via press conference.

Consumers are embracing new business models in order to meet their needs in a safe, convenient and cost-effective way. We put our trust in Transportation Network Companies to provide safe travels.  I say with no hyperbole that I feel extraordinarily safe in a rideshare. Through my experiences working with leading rideshare companies, I know that consumer protection and safety are paramount to these organizations and will continue to be a guiding principle in the development of this industry.

 

*Sidecar, Uber, and Shuddle are members of CALinnovates

 

 

How We Can Stop the Looming Spectrum Crunch

Wireless spectrum is something that you probably never think about. You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, and if you’re not interested in the minutia of federal communications regulations, you probably only have a vague idea of what spectrum is.

But trust me; unless you are living completely off the grid, spectrum is a crucial part of your everyday life. It’s what air traffic controllers use to talk to pilots. It lets you use apps, check email on your phone, and make mobile phone calls. It’s how you can see your baby on a monitor from another room. And it is getting dangerously crowded.

 Read the rest on Medium

 

FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel on the Innovation Economy

There are few people better equipped to talk about innovation and technology than FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. She is a frequent visitor to Silicon Valley, which helps inform her understanding of the Valley’s point of view.

So it was a real honor for CALinnovates to sit down with Commissioner Rosenworcel and discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the innovation economy. From the complexity of spectrum policy to what Washington DC needs to learn from Silicon Valley, Rosenworcel is an important voice for the tech community.

A Mobile Health Innovation That Could Help Stop Ebola

Developing countries don’t have the high-tech equipment needed to quickly diagnose the disease, but they do have millions of cellphones. One UCLA professor has a way to turn those phones into diagnostic centers.

There are 6.8 billion cellphone subscriptions in the world. Even when you consider that some people have more than one subscription, that means that an incredibly high percentage of the world’s 7 billion people now have a mobile phone.

Although most of us use our phones for things like texting, taking photos and playing games (in addition to the occasional phone call), there’s a movement out there to harness the power of that giant community of cellphone users to help people living in the poorest countries on Earth.

Dr. Aydogan Ozcan is a member of that movement. The UCLA engineering professor is turning mobile phones into diagnostic centers that can be used thousands of miles away from labs with expensive hospital equipment.

Ozcan has created software and hardware that turn cellphones into microscopes and diagnostic machines. With the addition of a 3D-printed microscope, a field worker in Africa can quickly scan the blood of an HIV patient to see how the virus is reacting to medicine. Workers can take water samples to test for E. coli in a stream or well, and epidemiologists can connect data points to quickly see where diseases are spreading.

Read more on The Huffington Post

FireChat Shows the Triumph of Technology Over Repression

What happens when you’re protesting in a place like China where the government stands ready to shut down Internet services or block social networking web sites?

Read more on The Huffington Post

How the Ferguson Protests Convinced Me We Don’t Need Cell Phone Kill Switches

California Governor Jerry Brown just signed a bill that requires all smartphones sold in California to come with mandatory “kill switches.” A few weeks ago, I thought the bill was a seemingly harmless piece of legislation that might decrease the number of smartphones stolen every year. I even wrote a blog post in support of the bill. I’ve since changed my mind.

The events in Ferguson, Mo. that followed the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown made me rethink my view.

Read the rest of the story HERE

Allow Municipalities the Chance to Build Broadband Networks

After all, who better to know what a community needs than a local government? If elected officials recognize a need for better broadband access in their state, shouldn’t voters have the final say as to who gets to build and maintain its broadband networks?

Every corner of the country deserves access to high-speed Internet.

Read more on The Huffington Post

 

Why tech will back S.F. minimum-wage hike

by Mike Montgomery

Will the Bay Area’s tech royalty back a big boost to the minimum wage in San Francisco? They should. And they will — once they see the numbers.

Let me explain. Until recently, the region’s tech stars have been able to portray themselves as the antithesis of the Wall Street folks, New Yorkers who tricked widows and orphans into taking out mortgages they couldn’t afford. Those were the greedy guys. And the bitter dysfunction in Washington, D.C.? That’s a town run by partisan ideologues.

San Francisco, meanwhile, is packed with entrepreneurs and engineers — problem-solving do-gooders who definitely pay attention to the numbers.

Read more in The San Francisco Examiner

How the Ferguson Protests Convinced Me We Don’t Need Cell Phone Kill Switches

California Governor Jerry Brown just signed a bill that requires all smartphones sold in California to come with mandatory “kill switches.” A few weeks ago, I thought the bill was a seemingly harmless piece of legislation that might decrease the number of smartphones stolen every year. I even wrote a blog post in support of the bill. I’ve since changed my mind.

The events in Ferguson, Mo. that followed the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown made me rethink my view.

Read the rest of the story HERE