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CALinnovates Statement Regarding the FCC’s Revamped Privacy Proposal

October 7, 2016

“This version, like the first, falls woefully short in its noble goal to safeguard consumer data and increase transparency for the public. Subjecting the exact same data to different and arbitrary rules depending upon a company’s primary offering in today’s era of vertical integration does not increase consumer privacy. It is also blind to the realities of the marketplace. We need 21st Century privacy rules to govern a 21st Century data market.” said Tim Sparapani, CALinnovates’ senior policy counsel.

“Chairman Wheeler has indicated that some favored companies will be allowed to practice permissionless innovation outside the FCC’s jurisdiction while other disfavored entities must operate under the microscope despite the fact that the data is one in the same. Businesses of all types today are data companies first and foremost, whether they make software or deliver internet access – or both. And innovation can and should spring from all types of companies, ISPs included.”

“Today, Verizon owns Yahoo, AOL and Huffington Post, and the line between ISPs and edge providers has been increasingly blurred. Consumers will be no better off under this scheme than the previous one, but they may be worse off than they are today.”

“This is a referendum on innovation and an affront to consumers who expect more and demand better. No matter how Chairman Wheeler tries to spin it, his latest iteration of the FCC’s privacy proposal is nothing more than lipstick on a pig,” said Mike Montgomery, executive director of CALinnovates.

“CALinnovates encourages Chairman Wheeler to return to the drawing board to rewrite the rules one more time. Better yet, the FCC should seek further public input as well as guidance from Congress and the FTC, which has the longstanding privacy expertise the FCC lacks.”

CALinnovates is a non-partisan coalition of tech companies, founders, funders and non-profits determined to make the new economy a reality.

Missed Opportunity: Clinton And Trump Need To Talk About Technology At The Next Debate

By Kish Rajan

Monday night’s debate was full of barbs and zingers from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And while the candidates’ personalities were on full display, they spent very little time discussing actual policy.

I guess that shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. This year’s election, more than any other I can remember, has been more about emotion than substance. But I can’t help feeling disappointed that they didn’t talk about the opportunities and challenges in the tech industry.

As the night started, I had some hope. The first part of Monday night’s presidential debate was dedicated to “achieving prosperity.” Moderator Lester Holt explained that meant creating more jobs, something we desperately need.

Clinton made a small reference to tech when she mentioned jobs in innovation and technology, but that was it for the rest of the night. Job talk shifted to trade issues, and the only other time technology came up was in a discussion about cybersecurity.

This was a real missed opportunity. Tech is quickly becoming the driver of our ecomony. According to the government’s Bureau for Labor Statistics, STEM jobs are growing at 13% per year, faster than any other sector. Tech jobs pay some of the highest wages, and for every new tech job, 4.3 more jobs are created in other fields thanks to the multiplier effect, according to the Bay Area Council.

Tech deserved more than a glancing reference when talking about job growth. There are serious policy concerns that can either hurt or harm the tech industry. Modernizing tax policies, new strategies for education and workforce development, access to capital to start new businesses and regulatory reform — all of these issues are critical to tech entrepreneurs, and we need to see them talked about more on the national stage.

Then there is the sharing economy, which is growing in leaps and bounds. Companies such as Uber, Airbnb and Task Rabbit are remaking the economy in incredibly fundamental ways. A job is no longer for life; that’s just reality. These new companies are opening up new opportunities for people who may be underemployed or who just want more flexibility to control their own work life.

From my point of view, the new economy is doing a lot of good, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be regulated, and the choices the government makes about those regulations will have an enormous impact on whether this industry thrives or whether it struggles to find its footing.

At the most basic level, the new realities of work mean that we need to rethink things like tax breaks and benefits. Obamacare was a good start in that it gave everyone the chance to get health care without having to stay beholden to a specific employer. But we need to go further. More benefits need to be portable, sticking to the worker not the employer. We need to talk about things like wage insurance and evolving our tax code to reflect the changing nature of work.

Then there’s the digital divide. While at the top end of the economic scale people have access to iPhones, lightning-fast broadband and the newest whiz-bang wearables, too often people at the bottom are struggling with dial-up service if they have any access to the internet at all.

In order for this group to thrive, they need to be able to have steady broadband access, not just to be able to keep in touch with loved ones and take advantage of growing entertainment opportunities but to apply for jobs, get online training and access benefits that are increasingly going digital.

Closing this divide needs to be a priority for our government. It would be great if our next president acknowledged this and talked about ways to fix the problem.

The reality is that our economy is quickly moving into a new world of work that won’t be like anything we’ve seen before. But our leaders are still stuck in the same old paradigm. They talk about job security and “making America great again” in a way that recalls an era long gone, one that, for better or worse, isn’t coming back.

At the next presidential debate, I hope to see more from the candidates. Personal insults and clever one-liners are great for reality TV. But they don’t help much when it comes to leadership.

Statement Re: FCC’s Decision to Pull STB Plan From Meeting Agenda

“Today consumers, content creators and the larger innovation community were given a reprieve from government dictating how innovation should take place when the FCC pulled the set-top box item from the agenda. Innovative companies are already shaking up the set-top box market and don’t want or need the FCC’s help.

When more than 200 Members of Congress, Roku, Amazon and others oppose the Wheeler plan, the writing was already on the wall and it was wise of Chairman Wheeler to hit the eject button. CALinnovates stands with Congressman Tony Cardenas in requesting that the FCC release the order as it currently stands. Doing so will allow the public to comment. Keeping sunshine rules in place on this item is inappropriate and against the spirit of the APA.

The ecosystem is already headed toward an app-based solution and by potentially creating a compulsory licensing scheme, Chairman Wheeler stands in the way of progress, innovation and the promise of this new Golden Age of television.”

Why Pot Is The New Frontier For Tech Entrepreneurs

By Mike Montgomery

The cannabis industry is growing like, well, a weed. And the fact that recreational marijuana is on the California ballot in November means that we are about to see an extraordinary number of tech entrepreneurs enter this arena. According to cannabis research firm The Arcview Group, if the measure passes, the California cannabis market will grow from $2.7 billion to $6.6 billion by 2020.

Currently, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington are the only states where recreational marijuana use is legal. It’s a $5.7 billion industry (“the fastest growing industry in America,” according to Cashinbis) that is poised to take off once California hits the market.

There are plenty of hot areas for fledgling cannabis entrepreneurs. Edibles, vapors, extraction processes and growing systems, to name just a few. “If you are looking at product development, there is no standard—no one will tell you how to do it,” says Michael Devlin, co-founder and president of Db3, which makes Zoots edibles. “As the industry grows, they will ask for innovation. The winners will be those who respond to that.”

I checked in with activist Brian Caldwell, owner of Triple-C: The Original Cannabis Club, to see what areas might be ripe for budding tech entrepreneurs interested in the cannabis industry:

Mature consumer-facing software: Right now, Weedmaps and Leafly are the top two sites where cannabis consumers can look up dispensaries, find cannabis strains and read reviews. But neither is perfect and both need to mature a lot in order to be truly user friendly.

Weedmaps suffered from a lot of growing pains and has had a number of software issues. Leafly, while packed with information on specific strains and great technologically, seems to be struggling to gain traction.

Read the full article here.

Millennials Need To Be Front And Center At The Presidential Debates

by Kish Rajan

Presidential debates don’t tend to have a tremendous effect on the outcome of elections. They might move the needle a little one way or the other, but people tend to have mentally cast their votes before debate season even begins.

What debates really do is put our nation’s agenda on display. Moderators, chosen from the mainstream media, pose questions about topics they believe are important to the audience (which can be huge). What are we as a nation talking about? What do we care about?

Traditionally, those questions come from the establishment (typically white, middle-aged, male) point of view. Expect to hear lots of questions about foreign policy, immigration, guns and whether the candidates are fit for office.

I’m not saying that those topics aren’t important. They absolutely are. But they aren’t the issues that matter most to one of the biggest voting blocks out there: Millennials.

According to the Pew Research Center there are now about as many Millennial voters (69.2 million) as there are Baby Boomer voters (69.7 million). But the closest a presidential candidate has come to addressing Millennials is Bernie Sanders, who was willing to talk about things like the increasing unaffordability of college education.

For the most part, the press and the candidates seem to see Millennials as their worst stereotype — privileged, spoiled and uninterested. They don’t ask for their take on the issues and they don’t seem to care what they think.

This is a huge mistake. According to polling done by my tech advocacy coalition, CALinnovates, 70% of Millennials plan to vote in the upcoming election and 72% of them say that the next president will have a large impact on their lives.

They believe they have almost as much influence over policy as Generation X, but they don’t see the candidates speaking to their concerns.

Read the full article here.

The FCC’s Perplexing Set-Top Box “Solution”

By Mike Montgomery

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler jabbed a sharp stick in Hollywood’s eye via an op-ed in the creative community’s hometown newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, by announcing his new plan to obliterate the set-top box (STB) in favor of an apps-based approach. But unfortunately this welcome development of the FCC finally embracing apps as the future of TV consumption comes paired with deeply troubling news — instead of empowering open markets and innovators to invent and develop new apps and services to replace yesterday’s set-top boxes, Chairman Wheeler seems intent on creating a new government-mandated IP Licensing Board inside the FCC that dictates standards for the video app market.

That is an enormous step backwards that will confound and delay the introduction of new consumer apps and put government exactly where it does not belong — in the heart of the innovative and creative process by which new products are designed, developed, and rolled out. The Wheeler Licensing Body is regulatory overreach on steroids that will freeze app innovation in place and comes out of left field as not a single public comment over a seven month period even contemplated such a bizarre conclusion to the proceeding.

The idea that an additional layer of bureaucracy will spur “speed to market” momentum is farcical. If anything, there may be a “speed to licensing body” followed by slow progress that will ultimately keep consumers waiting for the newest innovations to hit the marketplace after a tedious and clunky bureaucratic process concludes. This will set back innovation and investment, which ultimately harms the very consumers Wheeler contends he’s helping.

We would never accept this kind of “Washington first” mandate for the apps, services, and platforms that power the web, and we should not tolerate such an approach in the video space. It’s a deeply flawed double standard by an FCC that has careened far outside its jurisdictional lane into copyright standard setting and the licensing process that undergirds much of the entertainment and technology economy. We have already seen this play out in other industries, and similar regimes have only served to create confusion, impede innovation and create additional costs; there is no reason to invite these dynamics into the booming video space.

The music industry is a prime example of a regulatory structure the entertainment world should attempt to avoid. CALinnovates has been an outspoken voice on music licensing issues and everyone involved in that debate would unanimously agree that music’s licensing system has been a mess and that the industry would certainly choose a far different approach if it could take a mulligan.

Read the full article here.

Just Tell Me What I Need to Know! The FTC Delves Into Disclosures to Consumers

By Tim Sparapani

“Bad UI leads to bad UX” is one of the most common sayings in Silicon Valley. Translated, this means that bad user interface (UI) – the look, feel and relative usability of an app or website’s design – will inevitably create a bad user experience (UX).  Silicon Valley spends considerable resources trying to build more intuitive, instinctive designs, especially when trying to get consumers’ attention and permission for using their data to offer them products and services.  This challenge is at the heart of an upcoming Federal Trade Commission conference this week focusing on the effectiveness of online disclosures to consumers.

Companies have long had to balance completeness and usefulness in disclosures — take our constantly evolving nutrition labels, for example.   In the digital age, while tech companies have made important strides in communicating with consumers,  striking the right balance is still a challenge just as it is with describing the most important details about your favorite cereal.

Despite decades of work in trying to figure out best disclosure practices by all kinds of companies, it’s amazing how much we have to learn about design for disclosing critical information to consumers. The challenge is most stark online:  tech companies must figure out how to get their  consumers’ attention, tell them what they need to know, and obtain their permission when needed, while not creating the dreaded “notice fatigue” where consumers ignore disclosures or, worse, abandon the website or app out of annoyance.

That’s why the upcoming FTC workshop to explore consumer disclosures is both so interesting and so important. The FTC, state attorneys general, and consumers themselves, rightfully expect that companies should communicate clearly what consumers should or must know about a company’s products or services.  Today, the FTC will gather experts from various disciplines to explore consumer messaging cognition and challenges for disclosures, permissions and warnings all with the goal of advancing UI.

How to communicate something you really need someone to know is a vexing problem in life.  Perhaps, if you are married, you are really good at sharing important news and wisdom with your spouse.  You probably do not try to use the same words to share the same bit of wisdom with your children or someone who is from an older generation.  Words and phrases, much less idioms or technical language, often mean different things to people with different experiences.  Those consumers for whom English is not their first language may understand words in translation differently than those who are native speakers.

Read the full article here.

The FCC’s Perplexing Set-Top Box “Solution”

By Mike Montgomery

Chairman Wheeler smartly embraces an app-based approach while simultaneously proposing a cumbersome licensing regime that will harm innovation and consumers alike.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler jabbed a sharp stick in Hollywood’s eye today via an op-ed in the creative community’s hometown newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, by announcing his new plan to obliterate the set-top box (STB) in favor of an apps-based approach. But unfortunately this welcome development of the FCC finally embracing apps as the future of TV consumption comes paired with deeply troubling news – instead of empowering open markets and innovators to invent and develop new apps and services to replace yesterday’s set-top boxes, Chairman Wheeler seems intent on creating a new government-mandated IP Licensing Board inside the FCC that dictates standards for the video app market. That is an enormous step backwards that will confound and delay the introduction of new consumer apps and put government exactly where it does not belong – in the heart of the innovative and creative process by which new products are designed, developed, and rolled out. The Wheeler Licensing Body is regulatory overreach on steroids that will freeze app innovation in place and comes out of left field as not a single public comment over a seven month period even contemplated such a bizarre conclusion to the proceeding.

The idea that an additional layer of bureaucracy will spur “speed to market” momentum is farcical. If anything, there may be a “speed to licensing body” followed by slow progress that will ultimately keep consumers waiting for the newest innovations to hit the marketplace after a tedious and clunky bureaucratic process concludes. This will set back innovation and investment, which ultimately harms the very consumers Wheeler contends he’s helping.

We would never accept this kind of “Washington first” mandate for the apps, services, and platforms that power the web, and we should not tolerate such an approach in the video space. It’s a deeply flawed double standard by an FCC that has careened far outside its jurisdictional lane into copyright standard setting and the licensing process that undergirds much of the entertainment and technology economy. We have already seen this play out in other industries, and similar regimes have only served to create confusion, impede innovation and create additional costs; there is no reason to invite these dynamics into the booming video space. The music industry is a prime example of a regulatory structure the entertainment world should attempt to avoid. CALinnovates has been an outspoken voice on music licensing issues and everyone involved in that debate would unanimously agree that music’s licensing system has been a mess and that the industry would certainly choose a far different approach if it could take a mulligan. In STBs, Chairman Wheeler intends to create a brand new licensing bureau, with a number of questions still outstanding about enforcement, process, and legality. This isn’t as easy as Wheeler says, but ultimately the devil is in the not-so-transparent details, which the public will see in late October after the FCC votes on the issue in three short weeks.

Read the full article here.

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