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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Cable Company Fuckery

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John Oliver and his new show Last Week Tonight has become Sunday night entertainment in my house. He’s simultaneously brilliant and hilarious.

Oliver took on Net Neutrality on Sunday. Due to my cable connection being down, I didn’t see it until Monday when I was able to watch it on my DVR. He started off by reminding us that American’s simply don’t respond to “boring” so he suggested we change the phrase “Net Neutrality” to “Cable Company Fuckery.” He then goes on to explain, in clear and outstanding prose while being hysterically funny, exactly what is going on.

If you are perplexed by Net Neutrality and are having trouble parsing the discussion, just watch this. If you want to laugh your ass off, watch this. And then take the requested action at the end.

Boing Boing has a good set up cribnotes up on their post It’s not Net Neutrality that’s at stake, it’s Cable Company Fuckery. The snippets they highlighted (a few of many) were:

- On Internet Fast Lanes: “If we let cable companies offer two speeds of service, they won’t be Usain Bolt and Usain Bolt on a motorbike. They’ll be Usain Bolt and Usain Bolted-to-an-anchor.”

- On the Rare Cooperation Between Consumer Advocates & Major Tech Companies: “What’s being proposed is so egregious, activists and corporations have been forced onto the same side. That’s basically Lex Luthor knocking on Superman’s apartment door and going, ‘Listen, I know we have our differences but we have got to get rid of that asshole in apartment 3-B.”

- On the Appointment of Former Cable/Wireless Industry Front Man Tom Wheeler As FCC Chair: “The guy who used to run the cable industry’s lobbying arm is now running the agency tasked with regulating it. That is the equivalent of needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo.”

- On the Notion that the Comcast/TWC Merger is Okay Because the Companies Don’t Overlap: “You can’t reduce competition when nobody is competing. You could not be describing a monopoly more clearly if you were wearing a metal while driving a metal car after winning second prize in a beauty contest.”

Stop The Slow Lane

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The FCC is proposing new rules to allow Internet providers to discriminate based on content to provide separate and unequal connection speeds.

This effectively creates “fast” and “slow” lanes for the Internet which means that website owners and entrepreneurs may be forced to pay an arbitrary fee to ISPs like Comcast and Time Warner if they want their visitors to be able to access their website at regular speeds – or at all.

Last week I wrote a post titled Dear Internet: Let’s Demo The Slow Lane. What you are seeing on my site for the rest of this week is the demo. Don’t worry, you’ll only have to endure that popup and slow down once, unless the FCC does something like what they are proposing with these new rules.

#StopTheSlowLane is an initiative to raise awareness about this issue. At its core is a simple JavaScript widget, an animated GIF like the one below, or a WordPress Plugin for your website or blog that will inform your visitors about what’s going on and empower them to easily contact Congress and the FCC about the issue.

The call to action, js code, and WordPress plug in for #stoptheslowlane is available for you to put on your site if you want to demo this for your users. The GitHub repo fightforthefuture/stoptheslowlane has the full source code in case you want to modify / add to it.

Help us send a message that a slow lane on the Internet isn’t acceptable.

Support The Open Internet

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Just now Fred Wilson posted an Open Internet Letter to the FCC that my partners and I at Foundry Group signed on to. It came together in the last 24 hours and was driven by our friends at Union Square Ventures.

If you are a VC and are interested in signing on before we file this formally with the FCC, please send me or nick [at] usv [dot] com an email.

Help us avoid the fast lane / slow lane / no lane problem on the Internet that the new FCC proposed regulations may create, which we strongly believe will stifle innovation, inhibit competition, and limit interest in new startup activity.

Dear Internet: Let’s Demo The Slow Lane

Comments (66)

Yesterday when we were having Comcast issues in downtown Boulder, I thought about how slow the Internet speed at my office was. For several hours, it was 0 Mbps down and 0 Mbps up (0/0) until I gave up and tethered my iPhone to my computer and used Verizon LTE for the rest of the afternoon.

When I got home, Pandora had trouble starting up on my CenturyLink connection, which Speedtest showed was 2/0.5. So I switched over to my other ISP at home, Skybeam, and got 9.5/2.5. This morning CenturyLink is showing up as 8.5/0.75. Recognize that this is my actual speed, not what I’m paying for and could theoretically get. For example, on Skybeam I’m paying for “up to 15/3.”

At my office, on Comcast, I usually get 75/25. But even that feels slow after hanging out at my Google fiberhouse in Kansas City and getting 800/? (I don’t remember what the upload speed was.)

And yes – as a consumer, I’m spending a ton of money for all of this Internet connectivity.

Fred’s post from yesterday - The Fast Lane, The Slow Lane, and The No Lane - got me thinking. When the SOPA/PIPA issue came to a head, the most effective way to help people understand the potential implications was to blackout the Internet for a day.

What if we did the same by Demoing the Slow Lane for a day. Algorithmically, all sites could slow themselves down dramatically, demonstrating what performance might look like over a 1/1 pipe. Or even a 0.5/0.5 pipe. I’m no server expert, but it looks like Apache has a setting called mod_ratelimit that does bandwidth throttling for client connections. And I’m sure some intrepid readers could quickly come up with elegant solutions to this.

Let the world see “Waiting for”, “Connecting”, and “Buffering” show up in their browser continuously throughout the day. Explain what is going on. Then click a button to bypass the Slow Lane and get normal connectivity.

Instead of everyone getting tangled up in the legal question of what “net neutrality” means, consumers can see what could happen if / when ISPs can decide which companies get to use their fast lanes by paying extra and who is relegated to the slow lane.

Massachusetts Has An Innovative Approach To Immigration Reform

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Two big proposals from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick today. First, he’s proposing to ban non-competition agreements. He’s also proposing an incredibly clever and innovative approach to immigration reform applicable only to Massachusetts.

I lived in the Boston-area for twelve years (Cambridge for four years and Boston for eight years. ) Even though I often say that was 11 years and 364 days too many for my “non-big city, non-east coast” personality, Boston still has a sweet spot in my heart. I had an amazing (and often excruciating) experience at MIT which was foundational to my personality, thought process, and character. I started and sold my first company there (first office – 875 Main Street, Cambridge; last office 1 Liberty Square, Boston). Techstars Boston was the first geographic expansion for Techstars. I’m not a sports fan but I always root for the Red Sox. I think I have more close friends in the VC business in Boston than in the Bay Area. Two of my closest friends – Will Herman and Warren Katz – both live there. And I know my way around downtown Boston – even after the Big Dig – better than any other downtown in the world.

The Massachusetts non-competition situation has always been stupid. In 2009, my partners and I at Foundry Group joined a coalition of VCs to try to eliminate non-competition agreements in MA. It’s awesome to see Governor Patrick take action on it since it’s one of the major inhibitors of the MA entrepreneurial scene.

The immigration report proposal is even more fascinating. It’s a great example of creative and innovation public-private policy at the state level to encourage and enhance entrepreneurship. Jeff Bussgang from Flybridge explains it succinctly in his post so I’ll just repeat it here.

“The idea is a simple one:  create a private-public partnership to allow international entrepreneurs to come to Boston and be exempt from the restrictive H-1B visa cap.  How is it possible to do this?  The US Citizenship and Immigration Services Department (USCIS) has a provision that allows universities to have an exemption to the H-1B visa cap.  Governor Deval Patrick announced today that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will work in partnership with UMass to sponsor international entrepreneurs to be exempt from that cap, funding the program with state money to kick start what we anticipate will be a wave of private sector support.” 

Brilliant. As our federal government continues to struggle to make any real progress on immigration reform, I love to see it happening at the state level. In addition to being good for innovation, it’s the kind of thing that dramatically differentiates states from one another on a policy, business, and innovation dimension that actually matters and likely has significant long term positive economic impacts on the region.

Governor Patrick – kudos to you. Governor Hickenlooper – I encourage you to roll out exactly the same thing in the State of Colorado. I know exactly the people at CU who would be happy to lead this, as would I. And since one of our Senators (Michael Bennet) is leading the immigration reform effort in the US Senate and our other Senator (Udall) has been a strong supporter of the Startup Visa and immigration report from the first discussion about it in 2009, I expect you already know your broad constituents support it.

Oh – and to my friends in NY who have been helping on the immigration reform front, let’s crank this up in NY also! Why should MA have all the fun?

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