Treating the Internet like a utility could kill online discourse

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Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison (D) recently suggested that the government regulate the internet but is wrong on this proposal.

The veteran US House of Representative member recently said that “making Internet service a public utility would support social justice and economic equality in minority communities.”

Oh boy.

The Congressional Black Caucus member, who is also the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, invoked the Ferguson, Missouri protests over the killing of an unarmed black 18 year old teen Michael Brown by a Ferguson officer. Social media was instrumental to getting national attention to the incident.

Ellison told The Hill newspaper “Black communities would be some of the ‘hardest hit’ by the proposed ‘fast lanes’ rule” suggesting that calls to action and sharing of the protests in that town would not be made possible without a regulated internet.

I am always wary about evoking a tragedy and exploiting someone’s death to sell a policy point, and not really getting into any proposed “fast lanes”, I can say unequivocally that treating the internet like a public utility is a bad idea.

Having come from working in the private sector legal world where I represented companies which were regulated like a utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, I know for certain that there is tremendous regulatory hurdles to complying with those regulations.

Just as many enterprising startups in the general market would not be financially or organizationally prepared to bear the added paperwork, filing, reporting, and legal costs burden to being subject to that law, neither would black-owned start ups and digital web-based businesses.

Similarly, the impact of added costs  could be detrimental to  bulletin board communities like Reddit and Lipstick Alley.   These community owners are like Amazon, Google,  and YouTube, which are also edge providers that offer content, services, and applications over the Internet.

For over a decade, sites like those, that could be considered “edge providers” subject to Title II, have cultivated and been the place where minority and a variety of voices can congregate and express dissension, critique, challenge, comment and exchange ideas.

Excessive challenges, regulatory paperwork and filing burdens and other requirements upon them other than servicing their audiences could have the very real effect of chilling content and causing more to shut down.

So Rep Ellison is quite wrong.

Treating the Internet like a public utility would serve to do the opposite and could silence minority voices not amplify them or make them easier to get their messages and concerns out.

 

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CBC asks why did CNN just fire most its black executives

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Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Marcia L. Fudge released the following statement on the impact large scale staff reductions at Time Warner Inc. will have on African American representation at CNN:

“News that Time Warner Inc. recently began large scale staff reductions is troubling. Particularly concerning are reports that these layoffs have significantly reduced the number of African Americans in senior and executive roles in the company’s flagship news organization, CNN.

“In a nation growing increasingly more diverse, it is imperative that the organizations tasked with keeping us informed reflect the same diversity. Ethnic sensitivity both on-camera and behind it demonstrates a corporate understanding of the benefits of diversity, and a genuine respect for the audiences’ needs.

“Any staffing changes that disproportionately cut the number of African Americans at CNN – intentionally or otherwise – are an affront to the African American journalism community and to the African American community as a whole. It is my sincere hope that these reports are not true, and that Time Warner Inc. works to ensure that the diversity of its viewers across the country, and the world, is reflected and protected in all areas of its organization.”

Why? Thoughts?

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But don’t many women agree with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella?

Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Officer Satya NadellaSpeaks At Company Event

Whenever a member of a disenfranchised, underrepresented or marginalized group calls out the privileged, empowered majority on how status quo suppresses, undermines and contributes to their oppression, you will often get one of several types of feedback from at least one member of said privileged class.

1. You all whine/complain too much. You always play the victim.

2. This is political correctness run amok. People should be able to say what they feel without needing to assuage the feelings of the hypersensitive, perpetually offended class of people.

3. There is no oppression. Everything is a meritocracy. Only the talented, capable and qualified are winning solely based on merit alone.

The responses to 1 to 3 are predictable, lazy replies from beneficiaries of unearned benefits who refuse to acknowledge that superficial things such as class, race, and being a member of the establishment help them advance; and that the cards are stacked in their favor. They are also aloof to the fact that language, policies and practices benefit them to the exclusion of minority groups and those not entrenched or part of status quo,

[e.g. Old boys' club, business as usual, how it's always been]

They have little understanding and empathy towards those who are on the outside looking in or underneath that glass ceiling.

Recently, after returning from a much-needed vacation, I got back into catching up on pop culture, policy and politics chatter. I bounced into the ongoing discussion over Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella‘s controversial statements made during a women conference.  The newly appointed Nadella had to back peddle from his incendiary comments this weekend  saying “it’s good karma” for women to patiently wait until the “system” rewards them with raises rather than pipe up and demand one.

Those who fall back on this intellectually de minimis  retort or think it is political correctness to have to back track really ought to ask themselves if they think men too ought to wait patiently to be recognized.

But too often, many women too prescribe to the type of thinking that says we should wait.

A few years ago, my good friend and I who launched our own online radio show was told by a mutual female friend that we were too boastful of our accomplishments. She found that we were too quick to sing our own praises.

Back then too, I thought that our mutual friend was among the type of women the statistics talk about.

You know the ones who would not apply for a job if they didn’t meet 100% of the qualifications while men would, even if they met 60% of what was required.

She was part of the gals who do not feel confident demanding higher salaries even though they deserve it.

She was one of the women Sheryl Sandberg was talking about when she advised women in corporate settings to “lean in” and take a seat at the main conference room table rather than the chairs that lined the periphery in the back.

Too many of us in corporate job settings are indeed waiting patiently to get recognized for our value and worth and to be rewarded, and think that’s the right way to do it.

So while we are lambasting a man for articulating a common corporate culture understanding and practice, we need to also be reminding women that too many of them [us] do, in fact, subconsciously or purposefully subscribe to the same thinking….and they [we]  need to break out of that constricting mentality.

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The US Ebola Response by the Numbers (INFOGRAPHIC)

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Last month, President Barack Obama outlined his strategy for helping West Africa contain the spread of the highly contagious disease Ebola during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia.

In remarks during the trip, he outlined what the US is doing to control the epidemic in the nations most affected: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.  Specifically, he said that America is also trying to limit the economic, social, and political impact of the disease in the region; and to strengthen health security in West Africa and the United States.

In a fact sheet the White House released today, the Obama administration relayed its plan to manage the outbreak which includes accelerating the current clinical trials for a vaccine and anti-viral for widespread use among humans. It also says the US is managing the education and providing instructions and procedures for hospital workers, health departments, Emergency Medical Technicians and flight crews.  The fact sheet also announces plans to train health workers here in the US that are planning to work in South Africa.

Despite calls by some in Congress to embargo all in bound flights from West Africa to the US, the administration says it will not but instead will continue to require, among other things, that airport screeners submit all passengers to extra scrutiny including taking the temperatures of and pulling aside any with a temperature of 101 degrees for secondary screening.

Here is a breakdown of the numbers in the fact sheet in an infographic for quick and easy digestion.

 

 

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Next Gen StartUp Founders Really don’t know what they’re in for under Title II Net Neutrality Regs

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As the message filters out more that the key to future opportunities and jobs is work in the tech sector, more parents are eager to push their kids towards jobs in the technology field.

They also want their sons and daughters to become the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg.

So too do the next generation of start up founders want to be that next big tech pioneer.

Ana-Marie Kovacs hit the nail on the head in her recent contribution to Fed Scoop about the importance of keeping the internet open for  ”the kids in the garage and the dorm, the next Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, the ones everyone wants to protect.”

Of this group, she writes how “they are working feverishly day and night to create the next Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, Shutterfly, YouTube,” and how while these guys are thinking about “the code they are writing, its elegance and efficiency” and “about attracting investors and marketing their inventions”, they are not simultaneously thinking about “price regulation, quality regulation, privacy regulation and myriad other regulations.”

This is quite on point.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat through the painfully technical September 19  FCC roundtable on the effect internet regulation would have on technology.

On the panel was Michal Rosenn, deputy general counsel of the wildly successful crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, who seemingly, based on her comments that day,  is in support of efforts  to impose telephone regulation on the future of the internet despite the fact on that very panel she spoke about how her start up was able to develop, grow and flourish under the current open Internet.

It baffled me then as to why would she want to impose archaic regulatory frameworks created for the telephone industry on the next generation of start ups that want to be as successful as Kickstarter is.

How fair is that?

Kickstarter didn’t have to, as Kovacs writes, “think about federal and state commissions, hearing rooms and courtrooms.”

Since Congress passed a law making it easier for crowfunding to happen without the immense paperwork, filing and reporting burdens of traditional securities, Kickstarter has taken off.

“They do not think about the endless paperwork needed to prove compliance with rules promulgated by all those commissions,” Kovacs wrote about the generation of startups that are success cases. “They don’t have to, because the applications they are developing are not regulated.”

Currently, the Internet is not regulated under the same exhaustively burdensome section of the Telecommunications Act as telephone services (Title II) because it is considered an information service.

Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court agreed with the FCC’s interpretation of the telecommunications law which identified the Internet as an information service.

“But the FCC is now under tremendous pressure to reclassify broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service subject to common-carrier regulation under Title II,” Kovacs writes.  ”If it does so, many Internet services and applications will also find themselves subject to reclassification.”

She added:

“Blurring that distinction will change our kids’ thought process radically. Once they understand the innumerable obligations that being subject to federal and state regulation will place on them, every creative thought will be filtered through the questions: “Am I creating an information service or a telecommunications service?” and “How do I change it to keep it from being a telecommunications service?”

I also agree with this:

“Creativity does not thrive when it is focused on bureaucratic contortions. The creators of Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, Shutterfly and YouTube did not sit in their garages and dorm rooms contemplating the burdens of Title II regulation and ways to evade them. But if the advocates of reclassification get their way, they might have. All of those platforms look like telecommunications services once you start asking where the line is drawn: Exactly how little data manipulation and storage does it take to slide from the nirvana of information service into the nightmare of telecommunications service?”

I also have been wary about this renewed campaign to stick new digital and mobile businesses in limbo.

As Kovacs writes, regulatory uncertainty, fostered by hearings, litigation and continuous and on-going court challenges could convince”the investors [start ups] might have attracted” to “flee to less risky ventures.”

It’s a game of “Risk”, “Clue” and “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego” all in one but it doesn’t appear many players are aware of the rules.

If the FCC makes one false move or step in the wrong direction,  the next generation of start ups may end up stuck and without the same options or opportunities as digital businesses of the past.

But many start up, founders and entrepreneurs are not really engrossed in the fight because they are, rightfully,  busy building their dreams. Nonetheless, seemingly some are signing off on plans they have no clue will potentially harm that dream.

image: Shutterstock

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The Top 20 Start Up Hubs WorldWide (INFOGRAPHIC)

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I was a bit upset to see my home region of Washington, DC metropolitan area not on BillionSuccess the list of 20 best entrepreneurial places  in the world.

It’s all good though, some day soon we will rank high among these areas that boast a strong ecosystem, having much support  and resources to foster and maintain a thriving ecosystem of start ups and founders.

A-startup-world

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Female Tech Pioneer’s 10 Solid pieces of Advice JUST for Women Start Up Founders

Last year, I spotlighted Tech pioneer, CEO and Founder of digital customer acquisition company  ChannelNet Paula Tompkins who offered 10 solid pieces of advice for women working in the tech industry who may have limited opportunities to “lean in.” And that is where the differences between being an entrepreneur and working for a corporate entity come in.

She cannot “lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg advises in her recent book and try to have it all.

“Entrepreneurs—men and women—have to make sacrifices,” Tompkins sayd.  “Having it all is impossible.”

But women entrepreneurs bring something different to the workforce as the owners and bosses, she adds.

For example, she says she has a very collaborative and relationship-focused management and leadership style, not unlike how many women are.

“As a leader, giving performance feedback is a very important part of my role,” she says. “So when I am speak directly to staff about their performance they seem to be surprised…it’s not something they are expecting and they should be.”

Tompkins offers some solid advice and steps for success for women who are business owners in the tech field:

  1. Prepare yourself. This is big game hunting.
  2. Make sure you have the resources and available cash in the bank to withstand the scrutiny your organization will be subjected to. This endeavor will be very time consuming and expensive.
  3. Establish a detailed battle plan.  Thoroughly map the organization and assign competent and credible employees to face off with the myriad of cross organizational stakeholders involved in making decisions your company will rely on to thrive. You personally must be committed to driving and participating in the process, which can take months and even years.
  4. Make sure your feminine intuition is on hyper alert to sniff out subtle queues coming from the organization you are trying to conquer.
  5. Create an advisory board. They can be great resources. If selected properly, they can bring experience and perspective to the table.
  6.  Network with other entrepreneurs.  At times owning a business is a very lonely experience because you are isolated at the top.
  7. Know when to walk away.
  8. Be strategic, yet pay attention to the details.
  9. Trust your instincts
  10. You are the face of the company—project success and be credible. Retain your true self as a woman and don’t try to be one of the guys, but do join the male conversation.

That is some superb recommendations! Let’s make them work!

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NC telecom company owner, a Sierra Leone native launches Ebola App

Sierra Leone Ebola Trends   Android Apps on Google Play

A Sierra Leone native and North-Carolina-based telecom company owner has developed an Ebola app to inform expats and others globally about the health epidemic plaguing Sierra Leone and the region.

Al Turay,  president and owner of Raliegh, North Carolina telecom company Teleficient, in the North Carolina Research Triangle Park says the app pulls news from news websites worldwide discussing eBola and delivers it to app users.

It’s a one stop shop.

Currently,  an estimated close to 3,000 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gunea  (1 in Nigeria and 1 in Senegal)  have died form the highly contagious  disease,  marked by high fever, vomiting and shakes.

“It’s my only contribution to my country to overcome this disease, “ said Turay, who has operated his 6-employee company in North Carolina for over a decade after earning Bachelors and Master’s degrees in engineering management and information technology.

Currently, the app, which Turay designed and coded himself, can be downloaded and installed from the Google Play store for Android phones.

“I’ve submitted the app for Apple’s strict review and processing but I anticipate it will become available for iPhone and iPad’s by Monday or Tuesday,” Turay says.

In addition to being a one-stop information source, the app is also interactive in that it allows Sierra Leoneans on the ground to upload images of treatment facilities, family members dealing with the disease, community and civic organizations there working on training residents on how to curb the spread of the disease.

Daily, the Ebola app sends updates on statistics about deaths, and other facts from the Sierra Leone  Minister of Health and Sanitation’s website.

It also includes prevention tips and videos of speeches from the nations’ leaders on what they are doing to curb and fight the pandemic.

Finally, the app provides a face and personalizes the various Sierra Leonean doctors that are fighting the disease and dying from it. It includes features about each doctor, so that in the tragic event they lose their lives, they would be more than just a mention on a nightly newscast.

It’s about putting a face and story to those on the front line, Turay added.

Combined with the interactive piece, the app could do wonders to provide a different, on the ground, grassroots, citizen journalist perspective to the crisis.

It can make it more real and help to invoke more sympathy to what people there are struggling with and overcoming on a daily basis.

Turay said ultimately, he hopes to travel to Sierra Leone to train the youth on developing apps that can help their nation.

Although Sierra Leone’s electricity infrastructure is unreliable, one thing it does has is a very high and robust wireless phone adoption.  In 2008, 40% of Sierra Leoneans citizens had a mobile phone and surely that number has grown exponentially by now.  The United Nations estimate that 6 out of the world’s 7 billion people own mobile phones which means that more people own phones than toilets.

Mobile apps are connecting the world and changing lives in the process.

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Google targets Emerging Markets & Developing Countries with Android One launch

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Google announced the launch of its Android One platform on Monday, September 15, targeting the low-end smartphone segment in emerging markets. While newly launched phones are currently available in India, the company plans to roll them out to other developing…

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Minority Civil Rights Group asks FCC to investigate Tech Diversity

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A minority advocacy  organization has asked the US Federal Communications Commission to address the tech industry’s “abysmal failure” to employ African-Americans, Hispanics and women.

The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council  (full disclosure: I am on its board) said the technology sector’s “troubling” employment practices hurts the FCC’s ability to follow congressional directives to “regulate EEO and promote employment and ownership diversity.”

Specifically, in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and all four FCC members, the group asks the FCC to have its Diversity Committee investigate the employment disparity and determine to what extent, if at all, tech companies “recruit on campuses with high minority enrollments, actively mentor minorities for careers in the technology sector, and select diverse candidates who are U.S. citizens or residents.”

MMTC points to the fact that in the near future most media jobs will be more like tech jobs than traditional TV/radio production, advertising sales, and on-air jobs the group usually advocates on behalf of. Further, given media convergence, diversity within the tech sector will increasingly fall within FCC EEO authority, MMTC said.

“The digital divide cannot be closed when a sixth of the economy so profoundly and uniformly excludes African Americans, Latinos and women from equal employment opportunity,” the letter stated. 

Thoughts?

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