Archive Page 2


Net Neutrality Comment Period Winding Down

July 15 is the deadline for public comment on the FCC’s proposed changes to net neutrality regulations. In this 60 day period, the FCC is reporting they have received close to 675000 comments so far – that’s a BIG number. Perhaps one of the more influential statements came today from The Internet Association, a consortium of Silicon Valley heavy hitters who banded together (at least in this forum) a year and a half ago to lobby on behalf of the industry’s interest. In an email issued this morning, they strongly advocated for retaining an open internet, espousing three tenets:

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.

It remains to be seen how much influence the ‘voice’ of innovation may have – many big companies are included in this group and they stand to gain from less competition, but still see the value in fostering the new.

Should be an interesting week…


Can the Net Neutrality Debate have a More Neutral Outcome?

Today’s FCC meeting on net neutrality could likely mean we are a good step closer to some segmented treatment of internet traffic. This has been seen as likely for the past few months, given the January federal appeals court ruling striking down certain FCC rules on it and the Agency’s subsequent backing away on those rules. While I’ve been getting desperate emails on the pending ‘end of the internet’ from various causes this afternoon, I’m encouraged by the interpretation of today’s events by the Center for Democracy and Technology, my favorite go-to resource when I really want to understand a tricky IT policy issue.

CDT notes that the FCC Chairman is a former entrepreneur and VC, so he understands the stakes. The FCC is offering an unusually long 60-day period for public comment on its pending Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (what they’re proposing as the way forward) so they’re open to a lot of input, which they’re sure to get. In its proposal, mobile broadband may be treated differently from fixed. It might treat interconnection (how you physically access the internet) separately by forcing disclosure of congestion at interconnection points. The NPRM will also apparently probe a lot of specifics around what is known as Title II, the FCC’s authority to ban unjust or unreasonable access to telecommunication services, so they know what might be most appropriate and how to apply it. While internet access clearly fits this service category, the political war over the modern interpretation of this authority has pitted big service providers against those who push or consume content. The government is in the  middle.

So I’m now thinking the ultimate outcome in this situation is not a slam-dunk. There might be at least some middle ground to be found in this highly complex situation. The FCC’s NPRM should be out shortly, then it will be a spirited 60 days of public debate before any ultimate ruling.  This is a fascinating issue that stands to alter our default expectations for an always-on existence we’ve known since the dawn of the internet age. Millenials, the world as you’ve always known it might be about to change.



FCC Does Turnaround on Net Neutrality

Looks like the FCC is changing its position on net neutrality following an earlier Federal Appeals Court ruling:




Unconventional Wisdom for Entrepreneurs

At today’s Destination Innovation event sponsored by #NVTC Northern Virginia Technology Council, entrepreneurship and technology innovation in the Northern Virginia / DC Metro area was rightfully celebrated – there is a lot going on here! The event offered mini-pitches from local innovators well beyond government-focused solutions that tend to be associated with this area. Congratulations to award winners @LynxFit, @homesnap, @LMI_org, and especially @KeyCyberSec who is serving a high value social purpose that also has great growth potential!

There were two keynotes. Carly Fiorina gave a sporting mom-and-apple-pie speech that surprisingly, at least to me, centered around policy.  Despite her failed California Senate bid, she clearly still has political ambitions and was positioning accordingly. The second keynote was from local tech hero @Michael Chasen, founder of Blackboard, who nurtured his higher ed start-up service from a garage to a $1.7B selling price. He is now on to a new venture @SocialRadar.  His remarks were resonant for the aspirational attendees, many of whom were start-ups dreaming of making it big. His very personalized speech focused on 5 unconventional wisdoms learned from his journey with Blackboard. While I’m not sure how many of them were truly ‘unconventional’ they were spot-on for what it takes to make it in today’s market.

1) Be passionate about what you’re undertaking [and be an expert in your field]

2) Focus on the business – not the office. In other words, don’t worry about the ‘stuff’ – he showed a picture of his original, ergonomically awful desk chair that he claimed to still use

3) Share the vision – and sell the execution

4) Constantly seek advice [and pay attention to it]

5) Realize that disruption changes everything – and then changes everything again

Whether you are a tech company or any other innovative venture, these were great insights, born from direct experience, by which to run your business. Very proud to have had a small hand in this event, and truly impressed with the level of entrepreneurship to be found in this region. Silicon Valley, take note!


When Vision is Not Enough

A clear organizational vision is vital to moving your people in the same direction to meet strategic goals. Attaining a vision supposes a lot of things going right along your journey, or at least being somewhat in your control – but what happens when inconvenient realities make things go, well, differently?

Many of today’s leaders simply lack the time, bandwidth or vantage point to think beyond the near term. Yet never-ending change makes it increasingly important to examine macro forces that can impact your customers’ environments, and to prepare yourself for flexible decision-making in an unexpected future.

Scenario planning is a powerful but often overlooked tool in strategic planning. Scenarios don’t define the most likely future – they map uncertainties and explore alternative futures, so you are better prepared for both.

While employed by organizations as large as Royal Dutch Shell, the World Bank and the Military, even smaller to mid-sized businesses can incorporate at least some foundational work into their planning efforts.

The biggest premise in scenario planning is don’t assume the future will closely mirror the present. [Consider the unanticipated changes that resulted from the 1970s oil shock, the ripple effects of the 9/11 attacks or even the recent Target data breach.] Start outside-in. Invest in truly understanding your customer’s world – what are they planning for? What external forces must they anticipate or react to? Such forces can be the root of opportunities, surprises, or unforeseen crises.

Then shift to inside-out thinking to assess the implications of those external forces on your core business practices, organizational capacity, culture and current strategies. Develop a set of plausible ‘what if’ scenarios grounded in your customers’ contextual environment. Explore postures such as…

  • Does our current [intended] strategy hold up in each scenario? What are our strengths and weaknesses in each situation?
  • In 3 years, will there still be a fit between what we do and the customer environment?
  • Who or what kind of businesses will be successful in each scenario?
  • Can we be reasonably sure a certain change will occur? What could the outcome of that change be on our customers?  And what then is truly uncertain? What should we do or not do in each scenario?

Brainstorm, be creative, and stretch your thinking. A recent customer of mine reacted to our example scenarios as “mind bending” for the entrenched organizational culture. Generate options and test them against your scenarios. You can use a variety of tools – from team brainstorming workshops to highly structured analytical modeling.

Remember this is about plausibility, not prediction. But with this more informed perspective, you can design a strategic roadmap with enough flexibility to navigate unexpected turns. Then go for it.

For further reading:


So Tomorrow is “The Day We Fight Back”?

February 11 is supposed to be a day of mass protest against NSA surveillance. Named ‘The Day We Fight Back’ it is reportedly the brainchild of a 34 year old former Congressman from Rhode Island, David Segal, and supported by “hundreds” of internet companies and various other political, civil and digital rights groups – both conservative and liberal.

The intent seems to be to evoke the same kind of digital ground swell that emerged 2 years ago around the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), in which the Congress was so caught off guard by the power of major websites going dark or posting protest messages for a single day that the proposed legislation was immediately killed. [See my post from Jan 26, 2012]

Tomorrow’s event, from what I can find online as of today, has some fairly significant differences from the Stop SOPA/PIPA movement.

For one, I don’t see the NSA bending to public will like Congress did – votes are not at stake, the intelligence community moves in a totally different (and mysterious) way, and the White House has already outlined its plan for NSA reform.

Tomorrow’s action also has mixed goals – along with people just generally stating that they think NSA surveillance is evil and unAmerican (which is rather vague), apparently some of the protesting organizations will also “ask legislators to oppose the FISA Improvements Act, support the USA Freedom Act [how many Americans even know what those are?] and also use the event as an opportunity to commemorate Aaron Swartz, a controversial figure. While Swartz was a leader in the anti-SOPA/PIPA effort, his later prosecution for computer fraud and abuse, and subsequent suicide left a conflicted reputation.

Further, this is supposed to be an international event for others around the globe to express their outrage with the NSA reaching into their borders. I’m feeling like the message is mixed. Without a single firm goal, this effort could go the way of the Occupy movement.

But I’m curious. None of us likes the idea of the NSA or any other government entity collecting information on us. The privacy issue has been building steam for a long while, and Snowden pushed it out into the open. Tomorrow is the first real organized effort, and maybe something will come out of it.  I find it interesting that the more radical Electronic Frontier Foundation is a main sponsor of the event, yet DC’s Center for Democracy and Technology, perhaps more practiced in the ways to get things done on The Hill, is not even connected with it.

I’ve been predicting [hoping for?] some sort of privacy legislation for the past couple of years. The issue is gathering steam, but change doesn’t come without the people’s voice. How many will actually feel outraged enough to call or email their Congressperson tomorrow? How many are more interested in the Olympics? Should be an interesting day.


First Steps Toward Privacy Policy?

Regardless of how one feels about Edward Snowden, he certainly has brought the privacy issue to the forefront. While the NSA has been in the eye of the media storm, private industry’s collection of personal data is on the coat tails. In President Obama’s speech last week, he alluded to directing one of his advisers to “lead a comprehensive review of big data and privacy.” That most likely will be targeted at the incredibly sophisticated Marketing practices now conducted by many corporations – and “Big Data” is just getting started.

People are becoming more aware of how much information about them is being tracked. If you compound the NSA  debacle with the impact of the 2013 holiday season Target data breach (I personally had to replace my debit card), the privacy issue is becoming a lot more real for average citizens. Government moves slow – but it looks like it is starting to move on this issue – and that most likely will mean some changes for the companies (big and small) who have gotten quite used to collecting, using, selling information about us as a core business model.

I invite visitors to revisit my white paper from last Spring where I shared some thoughts on what potential policy changes around Big Data and privacy could mean for marketers and communicators.  It included a useful piece of advice from Tim Keller, a law partner with Lindquist and Vennum’s IT, Internet and eCommerce practice (in Minneapolis), and author of the blog Big Data and The Law: “To prepare for radical shifts in data management policy, have as much knowledge about your data as you can, so when a legislator says you can’t have it, you throw away as little as possible.” It might be time to start thinking a little harder about that.

%d bloggers like this: