To listen to the debate about Internet governance, the world faces a Manichean choice between an open Internet—where everyone is free to share any information they wish—and a closed one, where governments block and prohibit vast troves of information. Given this stark choice, the only sensible side to take is openness. After all, as ITIF has shown, global information flows are critical not only to commerce but to the general flourishing of the knowledge economy and democracy.
But as in all other aspects of society, we don’t actually face such a binary choice. Reality is far more nuanced. The Internet is not completely open, nor should it be. As a case in point, the world should welcome the recent announcement by major Internet firms including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, which are taking steps to block images of child sexual abuse. In this particular case, leading Internet companies are using a database of digital fingerprints compiled by the Internet Watch Foundation to identify known child sex abuse images and block their distribution.
Because what is being blocked is rightly deemed to be horrific and socially corrosive, even the
Policymakers around the world have increasingly come to realize that entrepreneurship, particularly high-growth entrepreneurship (HGE), is critical for economic development in nations at all levels of development. That is one reason the United Nations Foundation asked Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc., to be the Global Advocate for Entrepreneurship and to work closely with the Foundation and its Global Entrepreneurs Council to help shape and advance a global entrepreneurship agenda.
To inform the Council’s thinking, Michael Dell led a meeting in Washington, DC, on December 2, 2014, hosted by 1776, a cutting-edge “accelerator” to help technology-based entrepreneurs translate their ideas into growing businesses. The meeting participants included tech-based entrepreneurs and policymakers, and I was asked to participate and serve as rapporteur.
Michael Dell opened up the roundtable with a discussion of proposed policy mechanisms to spur high growth entrepreneurship, including ensuring access to capital, technology, talent, and markets. The following is a summary of the themes and recommendations from the discussion.
The Nature of Technology-Enabled Entrepreneurship Opportunities
Policymakers around the world are interested in HGE because they understand that technology opportunities driving this type of entrepreneurship have exploded.
Each year, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) hosts a large conference at the Newseum dedicated to highlighting what is new in creativity, content, and technology around the world. At the most recent confab, held on Friday, April 24, MPAA’s message focused on how creativity and innovation will play an even more integral role in the future than they do today. Indeed, the Creativity Conference is about exploring the critical intersection between technology and the arts, and their capacity to drive invention and economic growth across industries and regions. Bringing together leaders from the worlds of politics, media, business, and the arts, the Creativity Conference engages its audience in an open dialogue on the meaning of creativity, its economic impact across sectors, and the ways in which we can continue to protect and nurture American innovation and innovators.
At the conference, a group of leading, innovative women discussed the ways in which Hollywood and Washington, D.C. intersect. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D – CT), Evan Ryan (Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs), Barbara Hall (Creator and Executive Producer, Madam Secretary) and Lori McCreary (President, Producers Guild of
Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) is asking the Florida legislature to cut $470 million in taxes that the state collects from residents on their cell phone, satellite, and television bills. This proposal to cut the cellphone and TV tax rate by 3.6 percentage points will not only put money back into the pockets of everyday Floridians, but it is also a positive step in the right direction to help reduce Florida’s digital divide and will enable more innovation though mobile broadband.
Florida has one of the highest tax rates for wireless services (16.59 percent), falling behind only Washington, Nebraska and New York. In fact, consumers in seven states—Washington, Nebraska, Rhode Island, New York, Illinois, Missouri, and Florida—pay in excess of 20 percent of their bills for their combined state and federal tax rates.
So why have these taxes to begin with? States have traditionally turned to taxing services that people consume in their home because it is a reliable form of revenue. Someone in Florida cannot travel to Georgia to get a lower tax rate on their cell phone bill like they could for purchases of goods that include
As the economy emerges from the Great Recession, it is hard to deny that times are still tough for many Americans. Some advocates have attributed difficulties to rising basic costs such as health care and, puzzlingly, cell phones, that limit discretionary spending power. The Wall Street Journal, in an article about rising costs for the middle class, reports that spending on cell phones by the average American middle class family has increased by 49 percent from 2007 to 2013 according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some have interpreted this as showing that price inflation for these services is growing faster than the overall consumer price index (CPI).
But what it in fact shows is that while Americans are spending more on these telecom services they are getting more. Americans are spending more on cell phones in part because more Americans have cell phones- the number of cell phones in the United States grew by 17 percent from 2007 to 2013. At the same time, spending on landline telephones declined by 31 percent over the same period. So spending on all phones, the more accurate measure
On Tuesday, Swedish officials shutdown the notorious illegal file-sharing website The Pirate Bay, striking a serious blow against the content thieves that have sucked millions of dollars out of the U.S. economy. Rushing to defend The Pirate Bay, however, was Caitlin Dewey, a blogger at the Washington Post focusing on Internet and digital culture. On her the blog The Intersect, she wrote an article alleging that the removal of The Pirate Bay from the Internet will do nothing to stem the rise of online piracy. Indeed, she argues that The Pirate Bay, “has done something a bit more significant, and a bit more permanent, too: It’s made digital piracy a casual, inarguable part of the mainstream.”
First, her argument that because piracy is common today, it will be common tomorrow reflects a surprisingly poor understanding of the history of the Internet (especially for a tech blogger). If there is one lesson from the Internet economy it is that nothing is permanent. This applies not only to website like MySpace, but also online behavior: how often are you instant messaging these days?
Second, by alleging that piracy is an inevitable part
Since 1998, the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) has been essential in promoting the expansion of e-commerce and ensuring a level playing field for Internet businesses. This will change on December 11th without decisive action from Congress.
The moratorium on Internet access taxes has been a central tool in driving innovation and the exponential growth of the Internet over the last two decades. It has spurred development in nearly every sector of the economy from Silicon Valley technology giants to new entrepreneurs to more traditional industries such as manufacturing, health care and education.
Since the ITFA was enacted, the Pew Charitable Trust estimates Internet usage among Americans has grown from below 25 percent in 1998 to over 85 percent today. For minorities, the growth in usage has occurred primarily in the last decade. These gains could be reversed if the act is allowed to expire and costs on Internet access rise.
What’s more, helping consumers, schools and small businesses continue to access the Internet is not a partisan issue. Permanently extending the moratorium on Internet access is widely supported in both the House and Senate by both parties. Everyone agrees:
Today, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) launched its innovative new Website: WheretoWatch.com (WTW). The search engine is a simple way for consumers to find all the movies and television they are interested in viewing — from new episodes of The Mindy Project to classics like Casablanca and even Oscar contenders still in theaters, such as The Theory of Everything. Indeed WTW allows consumers to:
- Search for movie/TV show availability on digital downloading sites, streaming sites or in stores;
- Find theater times and locations for every newly released movies nearby;
- Receive notifications when the content they are interested in becomes available from their favorite providers.
The site works by aggregating content from a range of outlets, including Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Xbox and smaller indie sites such as Snag Films and WolfeOnDemand. By simplifying the search process, consumers will be able to find exactly what they are looking for exactly when they want it: it marries accessibility to content for customers with protection of the intellectual property for creators of the content.
Even more importantly, however, WTW reaffirms the commitment that Hollywood is making toward more legally available content.
On July 17, 2014 the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYSDFS) released a proposed regulatory framework for businesses that use virtual currencies (e.g., Bitcoin) to apply for BitLicenses. The proposed policy would regulate businesses if they hold or transmit virtual currency on behalf of others, or if they convert virtual currencies to everyday currencies (e.g., USD). These rules were proposed to bring regulatory certainty, transparency, and clarity to virtual currency businesses (for background on the BitLicensing framework, read our previous post). Seeing areas that were ripe for improvement in these proposed regulations, ITIF filed comments with NYSDFS to encourage innovation, competition, and investment in virtual currency businesses.
Since the comment period ended on October 21, 2014, NYSDFS Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky has signaled that NYSDFS may adopt several of the recommendations outlined in our comments. Among them, Lawsky has signaled that BitLicenses will not apply to virtual currency miners—businesses or individuals that create and circulate virtual currency on the blockchain. Lawsky has also stated that NYSDFS is considering a transitional BitLicense for startups, and may exempt non-financial blockchain projects. We applaud Superintendent Lawsky and
Last Friday, Google published its new How Google Fights Piracy report with details of the improved methods Google is using to combat piracy across a variety of its services. While the report itself is an impressive overview of the many policies and protocols Google has put in place, as well as the results of such protocols, most notable are the three ways Google has reformed search over the last year: demoting sites with many DMCA takedown notices, removing piracy-related autocomplete terms, and improving ad formats.
The report notes that in 2013, Google received just over 224 million DMCA requests for Google search results and they removed over 222 million of them, with an average turnaround time of six hours or less. But in addition to removing these infringing pages from search results (whether through its content removal webform or the Trusted Copyright Removal Program that allows trusted content owners to submit bulk takedown requests), Google has improved and refined its search algorithm to rank sites in part by how many removal notices it has received. Consequently, sites with high numbers of removal notices are demoted to lower search results. This