This week we dive deep into the public policy that reflects the challenging relationship between commerce, the internet, tech giants, domestic and international policy, fair treatment of employees, and the future of our economy. With the help of Daniel Sepulveda, Phillip and Brian tease out the threads and agree that “we’re going to have to make a communal decision to involve everyone in the modern digital economy or we’ll have a bifurcated society” that falls prey to the wolves of populism.

Daniel Sepulveda, "ambassador of the internet":

  • Involved in commercial technology and policy for 20 years.
  • Politically appointed ambassador on issues of technology and telecommunications.
  • Appointed by President Obama and John Kerry.
  • There is no differentiator between the internet economy and the regular economy.
  • "if you're business doesn't understand that, then you're not long for this world."

On what we take for granted when using the internet:

  • The internet is an amazing act of voluntary human engagement.
  • There is no law that says communications firms have to accept internet protocol.
  • It's a handshake agreement among technologists, engineers and developers who use voluntarily agreed upon rules for the operation of the internet.

A brief summary of ICANN: what it is and how it functions

  • Before there was ICANN there was Jon Postel, and he personally managed IPAs.
  • ICANN is a huge nonprofit multinational organization acting as an internet yellow pages.

Changing US net neutrality policy:

  • Tim Wu was the original thinker around network neutrality.
  • The point of net neutrality is to keep networks from having a gatekeeper function.
  • Ajit Pai, and as an extension, republicans do not believe net neutrality should be a legal mandate.
  • They think companies should manage access as they see fit as a function of commerce.
  • Compromise: Republicans agree that companies cannot block you from access content, attaching a legal device to that content, or charge you on discriminatory terms.

Daniel's Take on net neutrality:

  • The point is to have democratic access for users. No one should come between the creator and participant's interaction online.
  • Ajit Pai's view: letting companies manage their networks as they want could create revenue and regulatory flexibility to build networks out to underserved areas.
  • Consider a compromise for a non-neutral behavior with a large public welfare benefit.
  • Concern: last mile service is still a concentrated market that needs regulation to protect against consumer abuse.

Avoiding internet policy pitfalls:

  • Promote public policies and incentives to maximize public good of tech innovation.
  • Construct public policies to discourage any technology out of fear is a bad idea.
  • Find solutions from tech outcomes rather than create regulatory structures to deny tech innovation.
  • Otherwise we'll have a real political populist problem.

On universal basic income:

  • A primarily gig economy is a challenge: the law and public benefit systems are built for a society in which employers have a responsibility to workers, we have responsibility to each other, and entities have consumer protection responsibilities.
  • We'd need a wholesale revisiting of everything from labor law to education and back to public welfare law if we have a society that is mostly self-employed.

How to develop a modern workforce:

  • Skill development is the cop-out answer. It needs to be much more than that.
  • It didn't work for steel workers or coal miners. They neither relocated to find work, nor gained new skills for different professions.
  • We need to "develop entrepreneurship for people in place, people within geography to create and build community."
  • Communities and cities are embarrassing themselves for the next amazon headquarters.
  • Take that energy and communal cash and use it for an entrepreneurial community.

Brian's 2 Takeaways to building a modern workforce:

  • 1: Invest in your employees. Teach them to be entrepreneurs or at least intrapreneurs.
  • 2: Some of you need to go start a business. Don't hide behind the walls of a corporation.
  • Daniel agrees: as a matter of public policy we have to reward that. We should encourage and reward the risk-taking of investing in your own company.

Phillip's 3rd cynical takeaway:

  • The current administration is not going to be very friendly to these ideals.
  • It likely gets worse before it gets better.
  • Get politically involved to put the right people into office who have the desire to see those policies carried out, or it won't happen.
  • People have to actually be in office to shape public policy.

Amazon and US trade policy:

  • Amazon is the most interesting and strongest company in America.
  • Jeff Bezos is a genius. He's in everything.
  • They have some of the most talented people in the game.
  • They understand the need to spread value to consumers and employees better than most companies. But there is a basic need in competition law, antitrust law, and societal function to understand the degree to which Amazon becomes the Walmart of the internet.
  • Not having a public dialogue on that issue would be a failure of duty for public officials.

Daniel's 5 year snapshot:

  • We risk an overcorrection in dealing with technology.
  • We haven't had a proactive mechanism for working with silicon valley and undeniably giant companies.
  • With no conversation about their practices, there'll be an overcorrection because people are afraid of how big these companies are becoming.
  • The hope is for a positive and inclusive dialogue that creates reasonable guardrails and authority for consumers and workers relative to tech operators and owners for the assets in their lives: personal identification data and labor.
  • We need a conversation about how our system better and more democratically distributes wealth.
  • We're going to have to make a communal decision to involve everyone in the modern digital economy or we'll have a bifurcated society.

Photo credit: Getty/Politico, 2015

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