Defending the open internet

Over the past few weeks, the future of the open internet has come into sharp focus, as the FCC’s 2010 open internet rules were struck down in court, and then plans for new rules from the FCC came into public view.  Amidst fears that the internet is f**ked, debate has raged about what this all means for internet users, entrepreneurs and investors. Today, we are joining a group of about fifty over 100 VCs and angel investors to voice our concern to the FCC as they consider how to proceed -- specifically, regarding the impact that we expect a retreat from open internet rules to have on internet innovation. It’s undeniably clear that the Internet has been an insanely fertile platform for innovation and investment over the past ten years.  It’s less well understood that during that time, internet access providers have operated under a de-facto state of open internet policy (dating from this 2005 FCC memo), even before the 2010 formalized open internet rules were announced. This open market environment has made it possible for tiny startups to build global platforms.  For example, it allowed Foursquare to get to 100,000 users on $25,000 dollars and Tumblr to reach millions before they hired their 10th employee.  They were able to compete on equal terms with the largest incumbents, and gain the love of users purely on the merits of their service. And we’ve seen how the shift in the mobile landscape from a carrier-controlled market to an app platform market, with the launch of the iPhone in 2007, has blown open the mobile market for innovation and investment.  We’ve also seen how, as mobile app platforms exert more control and restrict access to the market, the cycle of innovation slows. So today’s letter states our hope that the FCC will weigh all available options when considering how to maintain the most competitive, vibrant market possible for internet applications. You can read the letter here (also embedded below).  We pulled this together quickly over the past 24 hours, and weren’t able to directly reach as many VCs and other investors as we would have liked, so will gladly welcome additional signatories throughout the day today before we formally file this with the FCC tonight. Email nick [at] usv [dot] com if you’d like to join. This debate is just picking up, and it will be critical for everyone who cares about innovation on the internet to wrap their heads around this issue, and engage on it, as the FCC runs its rulemaking process through the summer and fall.  

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