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Last week, we partnered with U.S. Senator corybooker to host a  forum focused on using the Internet to grow small businesses in New Jersey.  The panel discussion, “Small Business Tech and Social Innovation Forum,” was held at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ.  Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of the Internet Association, led the discussion along with Carley Graham Garcia, Head of Global Industry Relations at Google, Bess Yount, Facebook’s Small Business Partner Manager, Darnell Holloway, Senior Manager of Local Business Outreach at Yelp, CEO and founder of Cardcash.com, Elliot Bohm, and CEO/Innovator and Chief of websignia, Steve Jones. Other Internet companies like Huffington Post, Uber, and Etsy were also in attendance to help small business owners in the breakout sessions.  

To watch the video on YouTube, click here.

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The Internet Association today submitted its comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging Commissioners to take strong and decisive action to guarantee an open Internet for the future. The Internet Association’s comments mark the first time that more than two dozen of the world’s most-recognizable and successful Internet companies have spoken with a unified voice on the issue of Net Neutrality.

“Segregation of the Internet into fast lanes and slow lanes will distort the market, discourage innovation and harm Internet users,” said Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of The Internet Association. “The FCC must act to create strong, enforceable net neutrality rules and apply them equally to both wireless and wireline providers.

The Internet Association’s comments to the FCC can be distilled into three key tenets necessary to secure and preserve an open Internet for the future:

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1. Internet Users Should Get What They Want, When They Want It

The Internet should be free from censorship, discrimination and anticompetitive behavior, protected by simple and enforceable rules that ensure a consumer’s equal access to the content they want.

2. Internet Users Should Get What They Pay For

Broadband subscribers should get the bandwidth they are paying for – content should be treated equally, without degradations in speed or quality. No artificial slow lanes.

3. All Networks Should Have Equal Protection

No matter how users choose to connect to the Internet, net neutrality rules should apply universally on both wireless and wireline networks.

“There is a compelling public interest for an open Internet, and we stand with the Internet’s vast community of users to keep it that way. We urge the FCC to listen to the people, and adopt these simple, enforceable rules to protect an open Internet. That open and decentralized model is precisely what enabled the Internet to become one of the greatest engines for growth, prosperity and progress the world has ever known. Recent Court rulings have placed that model at risk, and the FCC must act to protect an open Internet for all.”

In its comments, The Internet Association also expressed concern that broadband providers are discriminating among sources and types of Internet traffic in real-time, presenting a major problem for both consumers and content providers. The comments to the FCC detailed the perverse economic incentives that exist for broadband providers to block non-affiliated content in favor of affiliated web traffic. To resolve these conflicts and potential for abuses in the system, The Internet Association recommended increased transparency to ensure providers are not limiting consumer access.

To read more, click here.

 

Lyft, Uber and other ride-sharing companies may be new, but they have unleashed an age-old debate. As the newcomers soar in popularity with consumers, established interests cry foul and unfair competition.  Unable to win in the marketplace, taxis, insurance companies and their allies have turned to legislators and regulators to crush the innovative ridesharing model that has created thousands of jobs, expanded consumer choice and removed thousands of single-passenger vehicles from California roads.  Those threatened by the advent of ride-sharing, much like the opponents of “horseless carriages” more than a century ago, are engaging in scare tactics intended to make ride-sharing seem like a dangerous craze, rather than the viable and thriving new transportation model that it is. 

Opponents of “Transportation Network Companies,” or TNCs, would have you believe a parade of horribles will ensue if the newcomers are given license to keep delighting consumers, creating jobs and reducing pollution. Their most persistent myth: an “insurance gap” that supposedly renders TNC drivers uncovered if they are involved in an accident while their ride-matching apps are turned on. Opponents claim that unsuspecting TNC drivers could be found personally liable in the event of an accident.

It’s time for the facts: Companies like Uber and Lyft provide $100,000 commercial liability coverage starting the moment a driver turns on the app allowing them to find passengers. That coverage increases to $1 million once a match is made between a passenger and a driver and throughout the duration of the ride, until the passenger exits. By comparison, the state requires taxis to carry a minimum of only $30,000 in liability insurance. Looked at another way, TNCs provide 30 times the minimum coverage for drivers that taxis are required to carry. Those traveling in a ride-sharing vehicle have better coverage than they do in their own cars much of the time.

Then, there is the broader safety argument. When it comes to personal safety, Lyft and Uber drivers, for example, must undergo rigorous background checks, extensive screenings, driver training, and vehicle inspections. All rides are tracked start to finish by GPS. Furthermore, TNCs have a zero tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use. Ride-sharing apps include a two-way rating system, which means that passengers and drivers both know who they are dealing with. There is no need to hail down an anonymous ride from the street. And with phone and text contact between driver and passenger, there is no need to wait outside in a dangerous neighborhood for a ride to arrive. Furthermore, there is no cash involved in the transaction.

Despite these advantages, the California State Senate is considering legislation that would arbitrarily increase the amount of insurance TNC drivers carry to close to $1,000,000 at “app on” – regardless of whether the driver is waiting for a call, or taking her child to daycare.  Those extra costs will be borne by the drivers, in essence imposing a tax on people who may have just been able to enter the workforce as is the case with many TNC drivers. Even a mildly progressive public policy would favor job growth for the people who find TNC employment the best job they can get given their personal circumstances, for instance a single mom who organizes her driving schedule around available childcare.

These facts put the proposal to impose high insurance requirements on TNC drivers for periods when they are not answering a call or transporting a customer in context.  The proposal, for no good insurance reason, reduces the number of jobs available to just the types of workers who most need them.  The debate, no matter how opponents try to frame it, is not about insuring victims, but a bald claim by incumbent industries that does nothing to improve the public’s safety.

It’s clear that California’s Internet economy is strong and here to stay. Stifling innovation, and forgoing all the economic and consumer benefits it provides, is not an option.

Michael Beckerman is the President and CEO of The Internet Association, the unified voice of the Internet economy.

To read the original article, click here.

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The University of California system announced last week that it’s considering banning its employees from using sharing economy services like Airbnb, Uber and Lyft.  Such a ban would be counter to the U.C. system’s role as a global leader in fostering new technologies and inspiring digital advances.  It would prevent the U.C. from the benefits of the sharing economy, increase costs, and choose entrenched industries over the innovation and competition that has become the hallmark of California’s economy.  

California’s Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom agrees.  The Lt. Gov. wrote a letter to U.C. President Janet Napolitano, stating:

“…Sharing economy companies offer consumers more choices that often cost less than comparable services offered by traditional vendors. As the cost of a college education continues to increase and academic departments are asked to do more with less, we should be encouraging U.C. employees to choose options that save money for taxpayers. Prohibiting U.C. employees from using services that cost less is simply bad for the University’s bottom line.

“This decision also sends an unfortunate message to U.C. students, faculty and countless Californians who are striving to create the next generation of innovative businesses and technologies. For decades, the University of California has encouraged its students and faculty to explore new ideas and challenge the status quo. This should be more than an academic concept. A University that is focused on the future and committed to fostering new technologies should not work against innovators and entrepreneurs…”

Given the digital trends born from California’s innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, citizens and policymakers based in the Golden State are frequently the first to grapple with the intersection of technological innovation and its effects on society.  So, instead of banning employees from the use of a new and exciting segment of our economy, the U.C. system should embrace the sharing economy and the companies that provide consumer choice and cost savings that benefit the University system and its employees.

“The sharing economy and those who are disrupting established business models are definitely drawing the ire of traditional special interest groups, in this case in the transportation sector.” said Robert Callahan, California executive director of The Internet Association.  And while companies like UberX and Lyft are willing to compromise, the current push is an unnecessary threat, intended to leave them at a competitive disadvantage.

To view more photos from the rally, click here.

The Internet Association recently stopped by Sioux Falls, South Dakota with Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai and Mike O’Rielly to meet local business owners who rely on the Internet for their businesses to operate and thrive.

During their visits along South Phillips Avenue in downtown Sioux Falls, three businesses opened their doors to explain how the Internet enables their businesses to operate in Sioux Falls and reach customers across the country. The crawl included stops at Blend Interactive, Chelsea’s Boutique, and CH Patisserie.

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Today, the push for reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act reached a significant milestone as the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 1852), originally co-sponsored by Representatives Yoder, Graves, and Polis, reached 218 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. With the majority of House Members backing this important bill, there is strong, bipartisan support to update ECPA and create a clean warrant-for-content standard.

Our association, along with a broad range of stakeholders, has long advocated for ECPA reform to meet the needs of today’s fast-growing, online environment. The House now has a unique opportunity to extend the same 4th Amendment protections enjoyed in the offline world to electronic communications and information stored online. A majority of House Members understand that these protections should not be whittled away by exceptions or carve-outs sought by civil agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which would undermine users’ reasonable expectations of privacy.

Extending civil agencies’ authority to seek users’ information from hosts and third party providers beyond existing subpoena authority puts online information and privacy at risk. Since 2010, Internet companies have stood up for their users and followed the guidelines set by the 6th Circuit in its Warshak decision, which found that the Stored Communications Act (ECPA) is unconstitutional, because it permits government access to emails without a warrant.

Given the resounding support for clean ECPA reform, we urge Chairman Goodlatte, who has long supported this effort, to move swiftly to pass H.R. 1852 out of the House Judiciary Committee.