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Startup News Digest: 7/21/2017

Startup News Digest: 7/21/2017

The First Comment Period for the FCC NPRM on Net Neutrality Closes. Monday was the deadline for the first round of comments to be filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that addresses the 2015 Open Internet Order. Engine was one of over 10 million groups and individuals to file comments with the Commission. The deadline for reply comments extends to August 16. In its submission, Engine explained the need for clear regulations to protect startups from threatening behavior by ISPs and incumbents. “The NPRM’s indifference to the ISP abuse of their terminating access monopoly power is incredibly dangerous to entrepreneurship. Without bright line rules banning anti-competitive ISP practices, startups will be put at a structural disadvantage in competing with well-heeled incumbents, causing venture investment to dry up and innovation to suffer,” Executive Director, Evan Engstrom, wrote. The White House, which has been mostly mum on the topic, also weighed in on the debate this week. “The best way to get fair rules for everyone is for Congress to take action and create regulatory and economic certainty,” deputy White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement.

One Way to Protect Startups from Patent Trolls? Get Rid of Bad Patents.

One Way to Protect Startups from Patent Trolls? Get Rid of Bad Patents.

The patent system was established by our founding fathers as a tool to promote innovation and invention. But too often, America’s most creative, forward-thinking startups find themselves interacting with the patent system in a less-than-ideal way: on the receiving end of an infringement suit or a letter threatening as much. Bad actors that have amassed hundreds and thousands of overbroad, low-quality patents (colloquially known as “patent trolls”) target businesses, using these patents as proverbial weapons with the goal of forcing companies into costly settlements.

Engine Applauds International Entrepreneur Rule, Recommends Additional Improvements

Engine Applauds International Entrepreneur Rule, Recommends Additional Improvements

At Engine, we’ve seen firsthand some of the extraordinary contributions that immigrant entrepreneurs have made to the startup economy. One-third of U.S. venture-backed companies that went public between 2006 and 2012 had at least one immigrant founder. Moreover, immigrant entrepreneurs started, in whole or in part, some of the most important technology companies of our time, including Google, Intel, Yahoo!, eBay, and WhatsApp. In fact, the United States was home to almost 2.9 million foreign entrepreneurs who generated $65.5 billion in business income in 2014.

Engine Submits Comments on Artificial Intelligence

Engine Submits Comments on Artificial Intelligence

Last Friday, Engine submitted comments to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on questions presented by the growth of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. We highlighted the innovation being driven by AI startups across the U.S. and asked that policymakers keep this tremendous potential in mind when approaching AI. The policies pursued today will directly impact the future ability of the U.S. to remain a global leader in the emerging field of AI, and as such, policymakers should establish a legal framework that encourages innovation and growth.

Engine Submits Comments with Top Tech Companies in Copyright Inquiry

Engine Submits Comments with Top Tech Companies in Copyright Inquiry

On New Year’s Eve 2015, while most people were out celebrating, the Copyright Office quietly issued an notice of inquiry seeking public input on an incredibly important topic: the effectiveness of Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). For those who didn’t skip their New Year’s Eve party to brush up on copyright policy, here’s a refresher: the DMCA is a law from 1998 that, among other things, grants online service providers (OSPs)—basically, all your favorite websites—a legal “safe harbor” from facing lawsuits arising from user copyright infringements.

More Companies Comment on Net Neutrality

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In our continuing series of filings with the FCC and their open docket on Net Neutrality rules, we have a series of comments this week from a broad range of companies and organizations, again focusing on one critical viewpoint: that the Chairman of the FCC has within his power the ability to reclassify the Internet as a utility under Title II, and that he should do so. From the web, Opera Software is one of the world’s leading web browsers with more than 350 million users worldwide, and comments have been written by Chief Technology Officer Haakon Wium Lie from their head office in Oslo, Norway in support of reclassification with a global perspective. 

Opera Software services many users in sub-optimal situations, mostly those with poor connectivity or lower-end devices, which is first among many reasons that in a marketplace designed for ease of switching with only marginal cost, speed is a key factor in retaining consumers. And with one of Opera Software’s key differentiators being their proprietary compression service, Lie points out they would “have to” secure fast lane agreements under the Chairman’s proposal in order to stay effective for their users. In a sense, Opera Software provides a service on the margin for those on the margins of our society, and the reason they do so is that the Internet is the great equalizer. Even those without the latest and most powerful devices, or the best connectivity and bandwidth, can still explore the vast recesses of information and connect with people around the globe.

And, as Lie points out, if other countries copy the FCC’s current proposal, we run the risk of continuing to chip away, not just at the innovative Internet which has brought us so many products and services to enrich our life, but the very fabric of the community built online by restricting access to those who may not be able to afford to connect. In that “undue bureaucratic burden” says Lie, we find the greatest cause for alarm, all of which can be averted, in his words, by reclassifying the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

We also hear from organizations in the global health space, including the Global Healthy Living Foundation, which creates disease-specific communities and networks to help many facing chronic illness get the support they need. And from the interactive world, Heyzap and TouchCast create new experiences online. Without rules that keep the Internet open for innovation, their businesses won’t reach their users.

In all of these cases, especially in the delivery of high-bandwidth content like YouTube videos or other interactive devices, user experience could be hamstrung to the point of dysfunction without clear rules keeping the Internet open for innovation. “If we aren’t in a fast lane, by definition we are in a slow lane,” says GHLF. According to Heyzap, “If we had pay a special fee to each phone company to get the same treatment as our competitors, we would have to slow our growth and our hiring,” and that even if litigation under commercial reasonableness standard were available, it wouldn’t help them with ISPs. And TouchCast points out, “When someone views a TouchCast, they not only stream video, but also download web pages and data from the Internet all at the same time. Any perceived delays in video streaming rates or the presentation of any other information within a TouchCast would result in high consumer abandonment rates.”

We have links to the full comments comments and some key quotes below. If, like any of these organizations, your business and customers will be adversely affected by the Chairman’s proposal, sign up with us at startupsfornetneutrality.org. And if you can file a comment, let us know at comms@engine.is.

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Opera Software

“In the hyper-competitive market for web browsers, speed is key. Consumers will switch browsers to experience the web marginally. Competition would suffer if some browser vendors have fast lane arrangements, or if the non-fast lanes do not provide sufficient capacity. Under the Chairman’s proposal, in order to have a viable web compression service, we would have to secure agreements for a fast lane. “

“Our worst-case scenario is that other countries copy FCC’s proposal. The United States is not only influential with new technological innovations, but also Internet policy. Opera Software would never be able to provide web companies, including U.S. companies, with access to 350M end users if we had to negotiate Internet fast lane agreements with all network operators globally. If other countries follow the logic of the FCC proposal, we and other Internet companies would have to prioritize countries and regions.”

Global Healthy Living Foundation

“We are the first source of health-related news for thousands of people. When several contaminated vials of methotrexate (an arthritis medication) were recalled, we were one of the first organizations to reach out to the people in our community. Within two hours of disseminating the recall message through the Internet, we received two replies from members who were scheduled to take the contaminated medicine that afternoon. Our ability to quickly and efficiently reach a large number of people very likely saved lives. If we had slow or patchy service, we likely would have had a much smaller network that relied on us less often for information.”

Heyzap

“We could not have become the company we are today under the rules proposed by the FCC. We provide real-time recommendations of apps based on data gathered from users. This requires gathering a lot of data, bringing it to our computers, processing it, and sending recommendations and ads back to our users—all in fractions of a second. We need to process a lot of data, quickly. Any limitations in speed or consistency of our service would be noticeable to our users.

Meanwhile, under the Chairman’s proposed rules, broadband providers have strong incentives to make the differences between their standard and premium access options noticeable. If there were no noticeable differences, then no edge provider would feel the need to pay for premium access.”

TouchCast

“We are hoping to change the way people watch videos and TV. Established broadcast companies are wealthy and powerful, and they could easily forge exclusive agreements with broadband providers and lock us from those providers’ networks. While the Chairman’s proposal prevents NBC from forming an exclusive agreement with its affiliate, Comcast, it does nothing to prevent NBC from forming the same agreement with Verizon, or CBS with both Verizon and Comcast. These exclusive agreements could shut us out of the game entirely.”