Category Archives: Issues

CALinnovates Statement on Federal Communications Commission Vote on Open Internet

The following quote can be attributed to Mike Montgomery, Executive Director, CALinnovates:

“The loud sound coming from Washington today is resounding cheers from the lawyers, lobbyists and fundraising groups that will gain from today’s FCC ruling for years to come. There will be a rush to the courtroom, which will take years to sort out.

Congress must step in and provide a solution that affirms the principles of net neutrality but does so with modern legislation that reflects 21st Century technology. The next billion we spend should be on innovation, not lawsuits.”

LINK:  http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/calinnovates-statement-on-federal-communications-commission-vote-on-open-internet-300042154.html 

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

 

 

Open Data Beyond the Big City

by Mark Headd

Technical Evangelist, Accela Software

[If] one of the virtues of our approach to democracy in this country is that we have lots of governments below the federal level to act as “laboratories of democracy” then we’re missing an opportunity here. If we can get more small cities to embrace open data, we can encourage more experimentation. We can evaluate the kinds of data that these cities release and what people do with it. We can learn more about what works — and what doesn’t.

Read more in PBS MediaShift

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

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