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The FCC Should Look To The Future, Not The Past, On Internet Regulation

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s explanation of why he will propose regulating the Internet under Title II is full of references to the past. Perhaps that makes sense considering his proposal would regulate the Internet under the 80-year-old Telecommunications Act. But his words speak volumes about his misunderstanding of how best to balance an open Internet with 21st Century regs.

A large part of Chairman Wheeler’s argument rests on his own experience in the 1980s when he was president of a startup called NABU. The young company offered high-speed Internet service (at the time, 1.5 megabits per second) over cable television lines.

But NABU was thoroughly demolished by AOL. Wheeler claims that the sole reason AOL’s slower service won out over NABU was because AOL founder Steve Case was able to offer AOL over the open phone lines while NABU had to ask each cable company for permission to use their lines. Open vs. closed … an open and shut case.

But the real history of NABU is more nuanced than that. According to Scott Wallsten at the Technology  Policy Institute, NABU users not only had to pay a fee for the service, they also had to buy or lease a $299 NABU computer. But NABU couldn’t offer enough content to induce people to pay that kind of money.

Also the technology wasn’t quite there yet. According to Wallsten:

Cable TV systems were not built to handle much upstream traffic—an issue they still face today. Upgrading the cable infrastructure for two-way communication required significant investment.

The timing just wasn’t right for NABU and that had more to do with innovation than with regulation.  AOL out-innovated NABU.

We need our leaders to be looking forward, not back. By the time this gets litigated, President Obama and Chairman Wheeler will be out of office, and we have no idea how future leaders will apply these new rules. Wheeler’s post shows the need for legislation that modernizes our technology laws instead of trying to regulate a constantly evolving technology using outdated ideas.  As such, it’s time for Congress to step up and work together on a bipartisan basis to craft (and pass) legislation that will remove the uncertainty that comes from electoral musical chairs, because we’re looking at very different regulatory framework if, for example, Jeb Bush rather than Hillary Clinton becomes the next President of our great nation.

CALinnovates Responds to FCC Chairman’s Net Neutrality Op-Ed

Today, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler outlined the regulatory path he intends to take to achieve net neutrality.  The following statement can be attributed to CALinnovates executive director Mike Montgomery:
“CALinnovates remains concerned about the application of utility-style regulation of the Internet – regulation that won’t even explicitly ban paid prioritization. What we need more than anything is to have bipartisan and bicameral legislation that affirmatively protects the Internet from throttling, blocking, and paid prioritization that won’t be subject to the political whims of future Presidents and FCC Chairmen.  
“It’s been almost 20 years since Congress has provided guidance on important technology policy matters such as this, and it’s high time for a bipartisan, Congressional effort to address net neutrality.  Congressional action will affirmatively protect everyone operating in the Internet ecosystem. Unfortunately, when the FCC votes to reclassify, it will simply mark the beginning of another long Washington process that won’t end anytime soon.”

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

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.

Gary Shapiro: War on Innovation?

There are few people more bullish about the innovation economy than Gary Shapiro, the president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association. Indeed, Shapiro is so enthusiastic about the sharing economy that he compares them with American revolutionaries in their commitment to improving the status-quo.

And the regulators who want to stifle sharing networks like Uber and Airbnb, Shapiro says, are akin to the 18th century British government who sought to control their North American colony. It’s a typically forthright position from the always entertaining Shapiro whose take on innovation is itself innovative.

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

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