Opposition Building to FCC on Net Neutrality and Comcast Monopoly

12217_large_neutral-bitsNew Orleans    Finally, the 1% of 1% out in Silicon Valley is coming out of its stupor and scarey-cat stance in dealing with the Federal Communications Commission to stand with the rest of us in the 99% to oppose former industry lobbyist and new chair Tom Wheeler’s efforts to gut net neutrality on the internet and maybe even stand up to Comcast monopoly proposals.  Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, and a mess of other high-techers came together in a coalition to write the chairman stating in no uncertain terms that the proposals he is advancing will end net neutrality no matter how smoothly he spins it.

According to New York Times media columnist, David Carr,

The signatories did not mince words, calling the proposal “a grave threat to the Internet.”  The letter goes on: “The commission’s longstanding commitment and actions undertaken to protect the open Internet are a central reason why the Internet remains an engine of entrepreneurship and economic growth,” it reads, continuing, “This commission should take the necessary steps to ensure that the Internet remains an open platform for speech and commerce so that America continues to lead the world in technology markets.”  Translation: You are about to break the Internet and you will be deeply sorry if you do.

Reportedly the chairmen is hurriedly trying to make some amendments and include some assurances that the FCC will look at each and every one of these deals to separate the internet into a high road and low road, a fast and slow lane, but given the continued cozy industry club, toothless way the FCC has regulated, no one buys this for a either a New York minute or a South Dakota stroll.   Netflix has already cut deals with both Comcast and AT&T to make sure its streaming gets priority on the “last mile” even while voicing skepticism.  A drumbeat of opposition from Silicon Valley matched with other almost universal calls to delay issuing these new rules and step back and do better may be enough for the tone deaf FCC to actually get the message.

In other reports with $150 billion of cash reserves in the bank Apple has more cash on hand than Britain and Israel combined.  Adobe, Intel, and Google have another $80 billion in reserves as well.  Needless to say those kinds of bank balances get a lot of attention in the no-campaign contribution limits Washington, DC, so when any of them even sniffle everyone from the White House on down says, “God Bless You!”  Makes me wonder why there are reports that all of them are privately saying they also oppose the Comcast monopoly merger acquisition of Times-Warner cable, and only Netflix is willing to come out in public and oppose the merger so far.

Net neutrality could finally be the muscle flex from the Valley that we need to elbow Comcast back, rather than foolishly believing them and their faux regulator, the FCC, that their monopoly will work out OK for America.  Even Tom Wheeler seems to be getting the message.  In the wake of the building firestorm on his gutting net neutrality, he is offering to hold hearings on facing reality and finally making the internet a public utility, which most of America already believes it is and should be.

People get ready!


Silicon System of Selling Personal Information for Profit is Under Attack

New Orleans    
The cult of Silicon Valley reigns supreme in these times.  The moguls of Facebook, Google, Linked-In and the rest have become the 21st century of the auto barons of Detroit in the 20th.  They are at the center of the financial pages, fashion shows, and political pundit speculations.  They are worldwide ambassadors of the new American message of innovation and business prowess.  Recently Google officials were the first US corporate ambassadors visiting both Burma and North Korea with our new message of peace and prosperity.   The world is captivated by their tools, searching, posting, tweeting, and networking to create the coming paradigms of the future.

We love the fact that all of this is often free, not the hardware, like our computers, but we often lull ourselves into thinking the rest of it has no cost.   Why should we think about the business model that drives all of this, especially since that story is a less stylist and nostalgic story of the “Mad Men” of Madison Avenue.    Monetizing these free and fun internet tools, as the Siliconers say, is all about advertising, and frankly, as too few realize, we pay for that with our privacy, sold to unknown bidders to try to sell us tons of stuff.

A coming struggle in the California legislature may bring this story more attention than Silicon Valley wants.  A bill by a Long Beach assembly woman would force, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal “internet companies, upon request, share with Californians personal information they have collected – including buying habits, physical location, and sexual orientation – and what they have passed on to third parties such as marketing companies, app makers, and other companies that collect and sell data.”

Various Silicon oriented industry groups are predictably saying that this will retard innovation, I guess for advertisers and their soap and suds companies, and of course will cost them more money.  European regulators already require a ton more disclosure about personal information kept by Google, Facebook, and the like.  Facebook when confronted by earlier investigations of how much they give over to their app folks, claimed they have limits, but of course without legislation like this, they are not required to disclose information about their “over sharing.”

The ACLU is all over this at least in California and has mobilized their members to write the companies and ask about their information.  Frankly, believing that California will bite the Silicon Valley hand that feeds it seems unrealistic, almost as unrealistic as believing that all of these modern toys are really free.  Other states need to take the lead on this issue.  Nonetheless it is one thing to pay the piper, and quite another to not even be allowed to know how much we are paying.

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Cultural Shift: The Media Suddenly Rediscovers Poverty

New Orleans  I swear there’s a shift suddenly in the recognition that poverty is a big freaking problem.  Everywhere I turn in recent days commentators, columnists and reporters feel obligated to at least mention poverty and the poor either directly or euphemistically.    In a cultural shift from recent decades, folks feel they should at least pretend to be grossed out by ostentatious and disgusting displays of wealth and inequity.  Although there is no indication that this will do one scintilla of good for lower income families or citizen wealth in the short term, it speaks to at least a heartbeat of hope for the future perhaps.

The evidence is everywhere:

  • A Times tech columnist writing about how grand it is to live and work in California’s Silicon Valley starts out by detailing the intense economic pressure of living there and details the million dollar parties, fake snow drifts, and other excesses of wealth abounding in the area.
  • Another Times columnist, Gina Bellafante, in her “Big City” report the day before starts out her story on low wage workers who can’t make it in New York City’s economy by pointing out the paradoxes of rich kids of the 1% and their gold tinted bubbles.
  • The AP garnered headlines with a tragic story that poverty will hit levels we have not seen since the 1960’s, more than 50 years ago before the Great Society and the War on Poverty because of the Great Recession.  Furthermore, all indications are that this level of poverty will be pronounced and enduring as low wage jobs proliferate, unions have become sclerotic, toothless, and ineffective, and corporations ascendant with the social safety net in tatters and any hope of mending it lost in the ideological polarization of politics.
  • Increasing realizations that the devastation of the economy is such that single-parent families have created a new dimension of the class divide essentially because you just can’t make it any more with only one income.
  • Stories proliferate on the enduring consequences of a “lost” generation between 18-35 in this economy that parallels the impacts and lasting effect of the Great Depression.  You don’t easily get over long term unemployment.  Similar stories are now abounding about the death sentences of older workers past 50 who can never dream of recovery, even if they were to win the lottery of fate and be able to find a job, any kind of job.

I could go on and on and on….

Don’t get me wrong.  The gilded grossness of Wall Street and Silicon Valley should go underground.  Recognizing and naming the persistence impact of low wages and the life sentences of the service economy is vitally important.

Unfortunately this ray of hope is far from a plan, and though we start by naming the evils of the economy and the victim filled crimes around us, there still seems to be no one talking about the ways and means of solving any of this or a real program that might gain traction to relieve the pain and once again build citizen wealth.