Because every American
should have access
to broadband Internet.

The Internet Innovation Alliance is a broad-based coalition of business and non-profit organizations that aim to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to the critical tool that is broadband Internet. The IIA seeks to promote public policies that support equal opportunity for universal broadband availability and adoption so that everyone, everywhere can seize the benefits of the Internet - from education to health care, employment to community building, civic engagement and beyond.

Tuesday, July 19

Coverage of our RNC Event

By IIA

Yesterday, IIA held the event From Netscape to Snapchat: Politics in the Age of Broadband at the Republican National Convention. It was a great discussion, and featured new research from our friends at Pew on social media and this year’s election.

You can learn more about the discussion here. And here’s some of the coverage the discussion received in the press.

Sara Fagen, a technology strategist and former advisor to George W. Bush, said Clinton’s technology advantage will matter if the election is close. She cited Trump’s naming of Mike Pence as his running mate via Twitter as an example of a blown opportunity. Both Barack Obama in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 used their announcements to enlarge their lists of supporters.

Fagen predicted that the next major step in using technology to target voters would use data to find where and when to target them, using their location and beliefs to determine the type and content of ads. For example, certain women might hear education-related ads on the radio when they drop their kids off at school, then get another message at their work computers, followed by a mobile ad when they are most likely to be looking at their phones.

Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times

Bruce Mehlman, founding co-chairman of the IIA, said the increasing popularity of online news sources affirms the validity of federal communications sector policy that has allowed the industry to thrive.  “We really need to maintain these light-touch, pro-investment policies,” he said.

— John Curran, TR Daily

During an event in Cleveland Monday discussing the various candidates’ digital campaigns — less than two miles from the 2016 Republican National Convention — Deep Root Analytics’ Sara Fagen said Trump, who famously discounted analytics at the start of his campaign, has missed major opportunities that could make the 10 or 20,000-vote difference in key battleground states.

Giuseppe Macri, Inside Sources

Friday, July 15

IIA at the RNC

By IIA

Tune in Monday, July 18 starting at 12 pm EST for IIA’s From Netscape to Snapchat: Politics in the Age of Broadband, live from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. As part of the discussion, Pew Research Center will present its latest data on campaign communications.


Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

ABOUT THE EVENT

During the 1996 re-election campaign, presidential candidates primarily reached voters through traditional media – one-way communication. Americans were limited in how they could make their voices heard: writing or faxing a letter, picking up the phone, or visiting with candidates in-person. That same year, the light-touch regulatory framework of the 1996 Telecom Act set the stage for extensive network investment and innovation that created many new channels for two-way and multi-way communication between presidential campaigns and voters, empowering Americans to shape the presidential race.
 
The discussion will explore these questions and more:

• How has the way that presidential campaigns reach American voters evolved since 1996?

• How are Americans interacting with presidential campaigns today using social media and the web?

• Can social media have a truly significant impact on the outcome of a presidential race?

• Has the political process been effectively democratized by broadband?
 
Featured speakers include:
 
Amy Mitchell (opening remarks)
Director of Journalism Research, Pew Research Center
 
Lee Dunn
Senior Counsel, Google
 
Sara Fagen
Co-Founder, Deep Root Analytics
Partner, FleishmanHillard’s specialty brand DDC
 
Patrick Ruffini
Co-Founder, Echelon Insights
Chairman and Founder, Engage
 
Bruce Mehlman (moderator)
Founding Co-Chairman, Internet Innovation Alliance

Thursday, July 14

Recap of IIA Virtual Reality Event in San Francisco

By IIA

On the evening of July 13th, IIA hosted, “Cocktails & Virtual Reality: Breaking Innovation Boundaries with Broadband,” an event focused on how policymakers can support innovation and investment in high-speed internet infrastructure to help unlock the opportunities of a virtual reality ecosystem.

The event was held at Upload Collective, a hybrid co-working and incubation space in San Francisco where virtual reality demonstrations had been set up in three “holo-deck” rooms. Featured speakers for the panel included:

Evan Helda, Director of Sales and Partnerships, Meta Co.

Anjney Midha, Founding Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB) Edge

Tony Parisi, Co-Creator of the VRML and X3D ISO standards for networked 3D graphics, Upload Collective

Alisha Seam, Product Developer and Solutions Engineer, AT&T Foundry

Adam Thierer, Senior Research Fellow, Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Among the questions asked by moderator Jamal Simmons and the audience were:

• What products do you see on the horizon?

• What is the biggest obstacle to a robust VR marketplace?

• When you began in this field what was the craziest idea you had and has it come true or are we still waiting on it?

• What is the most frightening or perilous thing about VR?

• What is the biggest network challenge to bringing these ideas to life?

• What is the role of regulation? Has it helped or hurt?

• What can policymakers in Washington do to support all of this innovation?

• if]What about using augmented and virtual reality in driving?

• What about building for 5G?


 
Many attendees at the event expressed that they had not thought about the network requirements for virtual reality technology or the role of federal regulators in developing new products in the virtual reality sphere. You can watch the full discussion, along with some clips of attendees trying out the virtual reality experience for themselves, below.

 

 

Throwback Thursday

By IIA

Originally published by The Hill:

Consumer internet privacy: Leaving the back door unlocked

By Rick Boucher

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) asymmetric approach to internet privacy is likely to create a false sense of security among web users. Despite stringent FCC privacy regulation of internet service providers (ISPs), consumers’ information will enjoy little protection when they are interacting on social media sites, shopping online or surfing the web.

The recent Senate hearing on Internet privacy that featured FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Ajit Pai, along with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen, underscored that the FCC’s approach to internet privacy — singling out ISPs while leaving the privacy practices of edge providers essentially unregulated — is unbalanced.

By analogy, compare internet privacy to protecting a house. Wheeler’s proposal only locks the front door to guard against ISP privacy violations, while keeping the back door wide open for edge providers, such as social media and e-commerce companies.

And that’s happening as the internet ecosystem shifts radically toward the ability of edge providers to make the greater use of consumer information. A recently released study demonstrates that the expanded use of end-to-end encryption renders ISPs incapable of accessing most data that moves across their networks. Meanwhile, edge providers have complete access to information about their users, and they have sophisticated processes for monetizing it.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) suggested a viable alternative that would be better for consumers: keeping both doors locked and assuring uniform privacy protections by both ISPs and edge providers. According to Franken, “Should they [consumers] choose to leave information with companies, they need to know this information is safeguarded to the greatest degree possible. Telecommunications providers and edge providers like Google need to ensure their customers have more information [on] the data being collected from them and if it is sold to third parties.”

The FCC claims it lacks authority over edge providers. The FTC regulates privacy through its “unfair trade practice” authority, under which enforcement only occurs when companies fail to deliver the privacy protections they promise. Neither agency can require edge providers to extend the privacy protections that Franken envisions. His goal could only be achieved if Congress conveys broader regulatory authority on one agency or the other.

Also better for consumers would be to keep both doors unlocked. It’s not ideal, but at least consumers would be aware that all of their personal data on the Internet, irrespective of the device, platform or service used, is susceptible to being tracked and utilized.

Each approach has strengths and weaknesses. The first approach would offer a consistent and enforceable set of consumer rights and expectations. However, Pai thinks the doors-unlocked approach would be better for investment and continued digital innovation.

If and until Congress acts to require edge providers to respect consumer privacy, the only way to assure parity of treatment across the ecosystem and give consumers clear privacy expectations is to rely entirely on the FTC to lightly oversee privacy for both ISPs and edge providers. As Ohlhausen said, the FTC’s approach, “which has been incremental and technology neutral, has allowed us to be flexible as technology changes.” It’s probably the best we can do under current law. Singling out one segment of the internet ecosystem for special and more onerous treatment is flawed policy.

Thursday, July 07

Boucher in Bloomberg BNA

By Brad

Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher recently had an op-ed on Special Access services published by Bloomberg BNA. An excerpt:

Existing FCC regulations effectively necessitate that telephone companies maintain two networks—one that is modern and fiber-based offering fast Ethernet services and the old one based on copper technology. New fiber networks are currently unregulated, while the FCC mandates that competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) be given access to incumbent telephone company copper links at deeply discounted rates.

The FCC now seeks not only to keep existing regulations on the old copper-based services, but also extend government-mandated access and price regulation to new fiber-based services in geographic locations the agency deems to be uncompetitive.

The FCC’s plan, however, relies on deeply flawed and badly outdated data used to determine whether markets are competitive.

You can check out Boucher’s full op-ed over at Bloomberg BNA.

Tuesday, July 05

Save the Date

By IIA

IIA INVITES YOU TO ATTEND

Cocktails & Virtual Reality: Breaking Innovation Boundaries with Broadband

Wednesday, July 13th   5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. PT

Upload Collective 1535 Mission St San Francisco, CA 94103

RSVP via Eventbrite

Virtual reality will transform entertainment, education, business, healthcare and more. Behind these breakthrough innovations sits a broadband infrastructure that must evolve with it. To help unlock the opportunities of a virtual reality ecosystem, how should policymakers support innovation and investment in high-speed internet infrastructure?

The Internet Innovation Alliance invites you to explore these questions with us over cocktails:

•  What opportunities will virtual reality technology unlock over the next decade?
•  How should the broadband network evolve to support the growth of virtual reality?
•  How can policymakers best support innovation and virtual reality?

Featured speakers include:

Anjney Midha Founding Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB) Edge

Tony Parisi Co-Creator of the VRML and X3D ISO standards for networked 3D graphics, Upload Collective

Alisha Seam Product Developer and Solutions Engineer, AT&T Foundry

Adam Thierer Senior Research Fellow, Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Jamal Simmons (Moderator) Co-Chairman, Internet Innovation Alliance

#Broadband4VR

A cocktail hour with virtual reality demos will precede the panel discussion.

Friday, July 01

A Broken NPRM

By Bruce Mehlman

image

The Federal Communications Commission has been extremely active as of late, and this rush to regulate has not been without its headaches. Case in point: The Commission’s proceeding in relation to Special Access services (Business Data Services (BDS).

Specifically, the recent release of peer reviewed responses to a third-party economist study commissioned by the FCC for the Special Access proceeding. Inexplicably, the FCC decided to release these peer reviewed responses on the very day that comments were due on the FCC’s Special Access Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, even though these responses were in the agency’s possession since late April.
   
This surprise last minute dump of critical information is bad enough, but what makes the headache a potential migraine for interested parties is the fact that the peer review responses make clear that the data the FCC relied upon to propose new regulations on business services is flawed. As Hal Singer notes on his website:

As revealed in the peer review, the flaws in the underlying economic work that undergirds the proposed regulation of BDS (previously called “special access” services) are potentially fatal, rendering the analysis useless as the basis for the agency’s proposed regulations.

The fact that the FCC’s data is so severely flawed — even useless — is critical information that should have been made known to commenting parties before they submitted their comments. The FCC’s decision to sit on this data until after comments were filed represents a breach of trust between regulators and the public. Moving forward to adopt new regulations in light of now useless data would compound that breach and signal a potential political motive to achieve a certain policy goal. Here’s Singer again:

In seeming disregard to these significant criticisms, the FCC presses forward with its radical proposal, which would subject both telcos (incumbents) and facilities-based entrants (cable companies) to price controls. None of the economic statements released by the staff this week credibly addresses the critical errors reviewed here. Peer review is great in theory, but if doesn’t cause the Commission to alter its approach, then what good is it?

The simple solution for this mess is for the FCC to immediately extend the reply comment deadline for their BDS NPRM. This would give all interested parties and Congress an opportunity to review and provide input on the peer review study and the related economic statements. After all, billions in broadband investment dollars are potentially at stake. Let’s hope the FCC is listening.

Monday, June 27

Measuring Special Access

By IIA

Wednesday, June 22

Lessons From Canada

By IIA

Originally published at Forbes.

A Lesson From Canada For The FCC

by Bruce Mehlman

Oh, FCC: Take some notes from Canada.

Maxime Bernier, one of the candidates for leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, has just given a speech in which he set out ways to achieve real competition in the telecom sector. And one of the things he proposes is actually to phase out the role of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) as telecom regulator.

Bernier is a telecom and regulatory expert. He was Minister for Industry in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government and led the deregulation of local telephone markets after cable companies and wireless had transformed the telecom landscape. In short, Bernier recognized that there was “obviously more and more competition,” and he acted on it. In the face of opposition both from those who favored continued regulation and the Canadian regulator itself, the market was deregulated and competition flourished.

So why is Bernier so anxious to act now? It all goes back to his time in government. Ten years ago, he had set out a Policy Direction to the CRTC, which instructed, in his words, “the CRTC to rely on market forces to the maximum extent feasible within the scope of the Telecommunications Act” as a “solution” to its “control freak mindset.”

Back to old ways

What happened? “I, and many others at the time thought that it would force the CRTC to change its ways, to become more flexible and adapt to the new competitive reality. We were wrong. The CRTC seemed to take the Policy Direction seriously for a few years. And then it reverted back to its old ways.”

And from this, Bernier draws a conclusion about regulation and regulators: “Those whose task it is to regulate this industry tend to be behind the curve. They don’t want to let go of their regulatory control. Meanwhile, the industry has actually moved on, with new innovations.” That’s exactly right. And it applies just as much here as there.

Now if the CRTC can behave this way in a parliamentary system, in which it is supposed to follow the directions of Parliament, imagine the vast discretion our own Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has in a system where it is an independent regulatory body.

Implementing policies that ignore the marketplace

Why should Americans care? Because the issues that Bernier cites as examples of a regulatory mindset are the same ones we face here, notably with broadband, wireless and the nature of competition itself. In each case, the regulator opted for policies that ignored the marketplace, put its hand on the scale and favored policies that restrict investment. In auctions, restrictions on bidding intended to dictate market outcomes led to misallocation and under-utilization (as some of the spectrum sold in 2007 for public safety is still not being used and other parts took seven years to finally see service after sale in secondary markets).

So whether it’s broadband, wireless auctions or the nature of competition itself, the issues are similar on both sides of the 49th parallel. Regulators too often seek to ignore marketplace realities. In the U.S., we are witnessing it today with the FCC’s heavy-handed proposed regulations in areas such as special access, privacy and the video marketplace, among others.

Regulators only want to protect their own power

What Bernier writes of the CRTC could equally be said of the FCC: “As the industry evolves, the CRTC finds new reasons to continue to regulate it, in order to justify its existence. In doing so, it is not protecting consumers, it is only protecting its own power. The telecom industry is a mature and competitive industry, and it should be treated as such. It’s not a playground for bureaucrats.”

Both Americans and Canadians are better off with greater access to modern, fast telecommunications services, when the regulator lets the market work, encourages real competition, and investment, and keeps its hand off the scale. In fact, again quoting Bernier: “Interventionist policies that are meant to bring more competition actually do the opposite. Competitive markets don’t need government intervention to work. They only need to be free.”

Thursday, June 16

Backup Battery Power for… Broadband?

By IIA

In a new article for Forbes, Fred Campbell, director of Tech Knowledge and former head of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), brings to light yet another example of regulatory overreach, compliments of the FCC. The Commission intends to marry broadband with…batteries? In short, broadband providers would be required to redesign cable and DSL modems to have bigger backup batteries that would allow web surfing for up to 8 hours during a power outage – IF you also have backup power for your computer and/or other devices that you use to access the web.

As Campbell points out, the Commission’s thought process might as well have been born in the 20th century and doesn’t make sense for a number of reasons. Here are the top three:

First, this directive would take choice out of the hands of consumers. Forget having a say about whether or how you want to implement a backup power solution.

Second, it’s unnecessary. A power outage doesn’t prevent mobile devices from being used to connect during an emergency, from calling 911 to texting friends and family. In real-world testing, a mobile phone can run for at least 35 hours with low and mixed usage. And, as Campbell describes, if you use your broadband modem to make phone calls, the FCC’s rules already require your broadband provider to offer you a backup power battery for voice calls – that 97% of Comcast XFINITY voice service customers decline, by the way.

Third, consumers – despite demonstrating (through an extremely low take-rate) little interest in backup power for broadband – will be forced to foot the bill for this extravagance in the end…for your “protection.” Big Brother knows best?

Head on over to Forbes and read Campbell’s full piece for more details about why the FCC’s reasoning on backup battery power for broadband doesn’t add up.

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