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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

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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.

Mr. Feld Goes to DC To Talk About Innovation

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I’m in Washington DC again – this time to talk about innovation.  I’ve been here three times in the past year – the first time was to hear Bilski at the Supreme Court in November and then I was back in March to talk about and promote the Startup Visa

Yesterday, Thomas Friedman article wrote another great OpEd about the topic titled A Gift for Grads: Start-Ups.  As with many Friedman OpEd’s, rather than just railing against the situation, he suggests several specific things that can be done – in this case by the current administrationb.  His premise is that to solve the unemployment issue, especially among recent college graduates, we need three things: more start-ups, more start-ups, and more start-ups.  And to do this, Friedman talked to Robert Litan (vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation) and Curtis Carlson, (CEO of SRI International) and came up with the following.

  • Create a cabinet position (Secretary Newco) that is focused on pushing through initiatives that help startups and unleash millions of entrepreneurs
  • Staple a green card to the diploma of every foreign student who graduates from a US university
  • Create a meaningful entrepreneurs visa
  • Cut capital gains taxes to 1% for startups

I strongly agree with each of these.  My one small addition to the Secretary Newco idea is that person should be an accomplished entrepreneur rather than a career politician, policy person, academic, or lawyer.

Over the next two days I’ve got a meeting with each of my Colorado Senators (Michael Bennet and Mark Udall) as well as a summit at the White House led by Phil Weiser (Director of Technology and Innovation for the National Economic Council), Aneesh Chopra (CTO of the US), and Vivek Kundra (CIO of the US).  Our summit includes a small group of VCs from different parts of the US that I’ve helped put together and it’ll focus on the issue of early stage entrepreneurs and innovation throughout the country (specifically – more than just Silicon Valley).  I’m also participating in a roundtable titled Implementing The National Broadband Plan and Protecting Consumer Choice:  The Venture Capitalist Perspective with fellow VCs Brad Burnham from USV and Santo Politi from Spark Capital.  And, as a special bonus, I’m going over the CIA later today for a tour, although I can’t talk about it, so you didn’t just read that.

I don’t spend a lot of time in DC, in politics, or even following politics (I’ve never been a political junkie) so these short immersions are fascinating to me.  Hopefully when I look back on the time I’ve spent on this stuff I’ll feel like it’s been a productive effort for the cause of entrepreneurship and innovation in the US which is the thing I spend all my time actually working on by helping create new companies.

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