As many of you know, I’m a regular reader of VC’s blogs (Yes, I know I’m a nerd). Nothing like a little casual venture capital blog reading. A number of the VC blogs I read regularly have been posting about the FCC rule making that could essentially regulate the internet. It would allow companies to prioritize traffic on the internet based on how much a company paid the internet provider. Here’s a good section from Fred Wilson’s post about the subject:
Since its emergence as a commercial platform in the early 90s, the Internet has treated each bit equally as it makes its way over the “last mile” to your home or office. If you put up a web server and write a game that anyone could play, those bits will be treated equally with the bits coming from IBM’s web servers. There has been no fast lane or slow lane on the last mile of the commercial Internet. We have had a level playing field and that has resulted in an explosion of entrepreneurial innovation that has been very rewarding for entrepreneurs, investors, and society as a whole.
But that period of “permissionless innovation” is likely to come to an end soon if we all let it. The FCC has responded to a court ruling by proposing a convoluted set of rules that will allow fast lanes, slow lanes, and what’s even worse, no lanes. The FCC’s proposal will allow the telcos and cable companies that provide the last mile connection to your home or office to prioritize some bits over others. That’s how they create the fast lane and the slow lane. It also allows discrimination in which they can decide not to allow your bits through at all, creating a “no lane”.
I love the concept of permissionless innovation. In fact, it’s the reason why I hope that the FDA doesn’t decide to start regulating EHR software. However, regulating the internet is a much bigger deal than the FDA regulating EHR. It would impact healthcare and many of the startup companies in healthcare (imagine the impact on telemedicine), but would also impact all of our lives in big ways.
Brad Feld has even suggested that we look at a way to demo the “slow lane” for people. That would certainly leave an impression on you if you visited buzzfeed (yes I know a lot of you read it, but substitute another site if you prefer) and it took 10 times as long to load. I’d hate it just as much as you.
All in all, this could go very badly. It’s amazing what the internet has been able to create because it was basically a level playing field. This blog likely wouldn’t even exist if there wasn’t the level playing field we call the internet.
I’m afraid to think what the impact on healthcare would be. All those “consumer health” applications that people talk about would run into this problem. If we thought that healthcare interoperability were an issue today, imagine if you had to pay extra to get that data transferred? Not a good thing at all.
I hope you will all join in the effort to oppose regulation that would stifle the innovation the internet has provided. Fred Wilson has some action items listed if you want to help.