Kickstarter’s Yancey Strickler recently wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post which addressed net neutrality and the possibility of a two-tiered internet. The idea of being able to pay for faster access to the internet will create a “haves” and “have nots” situation which only adds to the economical issues faced by startups and the socially and economically disadvantaged.
Yesterday Kickstarter released a new blog post addressing the issue and included their official comments which they submitted to the FCC. Mr. Strickler’s post in full:
“Kickstarter was built on the foundation of an open Internet. We — like Twitter, Wikipedia, and everything awesome on the Web — would not exist without it. The more than 65,000 (and counting!) creative ideas that have been brought to life with Kickstarter depend on a free and open Internet. On Sunday I wrote a Washington Post opinion piece sharing Kickstarter’s thoughts on how important Net Neutrality is to the future of the Internet, and today we filed an official comment with the FCC. As citizens of the Internet and believers in innovation, we’re proud for Kickstarter to wave this flag. We hope others will also voice their opposition to get the attention of the FCC before they make a decision this fall. It’s easy to get lost in the minutiae and cynicism of the Net Neutrality debate. It’s everything we hate about politics: money trumping common sense, and the loudest voices being those with the cash to hire lobbyists. Unfortunately, just believing in the common good rarely translates into political influence. But sometimes it does — as we saw with the SOPA victory in 2012, our voices can be powerful when we use them together. As John Oliver so brilliantly implored us to do, we can all share our feelings with the FCC directly on their site, or through the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s tool. The deadline for this round of comments is July 15. The Internet as we know it depends on an open Web with equal access for all. That core principle is very much in doubt. Please join us in making a stand — for everyone’s sake. Thanks.”
Kickstarter’s official comments can be found here.
Mr. Strickler begins by reminding the committee that everyone of Kickstarter’s 65,000-plus successful projects, along with Kickstarter itself, Twitter, Wikipedia and others, were built on the foundation of a free and open internet. If enacted, it would force companies to transfer dollars from innovation and human resources toward making access deals with ISPs.
He also tells the story of how Kickstarter began, and listed a few of the many items Perry Chen had to deal with to make Kickstarter come to life. “Never once did he fear that the site’s content would be blocked or slowed by an ISP,” Mr. Strickler writes.
There are several reasons why an internet hierarchy won’t work, Mr. Strickler offers. The fastest level available must be accessed by every company that is serious about surviving in a cutthroat competitive environment. Being on a lower level would be like being on the 12th page of Google search results. Sites unable or unwilling to pay will be buffered and frozen out of existence. Kickstarter board member Fred Wilson predicts telcos will pick favorite VC partners and freeze out competition, leaving a sizable chunk of worthy innovators out in the cold, at a time when America is clamoring for as many of them as it can get because the economy needs them.
What is a company was offered an unfair price by an ISP? The FCC suggests proving such an offer was “commercially unreasonable.” Mr. Strickler counters that the time and resources that would take make it unreasonable for companies like Kickstarter, never mind startups with scant resources.
Another option proposed by the FCC is an ombudsperson who would work to ensure fairness. Too cumbersome again, says Mr. Strickler. One can picture an cramped office down a series of dark hallways right out of a Get Smart intro, with one person at a desk behind a ceiling-high stack of files to imagine the priority given to such a position.
Videos are a key part of most Kickstarter campaigns, Mr. Strickler reminds the FCC, and a slow loading one would be a killer. Make ISP’s common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act, Mr. Strickler suggests. Title II has greater authority to enforce unreasonable with regard to paid prioritization, application-specific technical discrimination, and access fees.
While the ISP’s have powerful lobbyists, Kickstarter and millions of people who depend on the internet do not. This includes many of the next generation of innovators needed to keep the American economy competitive. Why make it harder for them to succeed?