Broadband Investment Essential to Startup Growth

Contributor: Greg M. McKee, President & CEO, CONNECT

The U.S. economy is dependent on the internet to propel emerging technologies to market and drive growth.  While the newly proposed Federal rules on web browsing and other online activity are a step in the right direction, they unfortunately still threaten to stymie this progress.

At issue are the Federal Communications Commission’s new rules governing online privacy.  The new rules represent an expansion of current Federal control over the internet and will add addition legal complexities that don’t reflect the realities of rapid online innovation.  These new rules would be difficult to implement even in a stagnant industry. But in today’s internet economy, with the increased pace of growth for new technologies and ever-changing business models, these rules will represent a barrier to innovation.

The FCC’s goal is to give consumers greater control over their online data and habits which CONNECT strongly supports.  However, once you look beyond that broad goal, major problems begin to emerge – problems that affect basic broadband expansion and undercut the development of free services.

First, the FCC’s new rules would require consumers to “opt-in” to allow ISPs to use information labeled as sensitive. However, the proposed definitions for sensitive information in the new FCC rules exceed the current FTC framework. The FCC should follow suit and further differentiate between the many different types of user data on the internet to allow for a balance of consumer privacy and the ability for providers to innovate by learning from consumer habits.

Another problem stemming from the proposal’s confusing approach is already becoming apparent.  While the FCC thinks that it can clearly delineate between internet providers and online tech companies, steady advances are certain to blur these lines.  The current online ecosystem supports online offerings that consumers value and promotes innovation.

Broadband development and innovation is a major issue for San Diego's startup and entrepreneur communities and, therefore, a great concern to CONNECT. CONNECT has assisted in the development of over 3,000 companies over the course of more than 30 years by successfully linking entrepreneurs to the resources they need to commercialize their innovative products. Our efforts create more than just near-term jobs and economic opportunity for our community; it also establishes a crucial foundation for future development.

San Diego is constantly challenged to attract and retain technology-based startups that will stay in the region with conditions that nurture entrepreneurial talent.  Innovative Federal policies are a crucial part of this business climate, which is why the FCC’s latest proposals to have the potential to add additional regulatory burdens to startups and stagnate important broadband infrastructure investment. 

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