Dave on the Internet Society and action for the poor (For the record)

​​The Internet Society has a $30M/year subsidy from .org registrations. It can and should be the world’s leading advocate for a great Internet for everyone. I’m on the ISOC-NY Board and sent this note.


I- and I believe many of you – believe bringing down the cost of access is crucial to bringing the Internet to everyone. As things change in the Internet Society, I think we should look at how we can influence decisions that directly affect the cost of access.

In the U.S., Trump’s FCC wants to severely cut back on Lifeline, the program to connect the poor. Commissioners Copps & Tristani will lead a

Speakout to Save Lifeline  Wed., Sept. 26, at 10 a.m. EDT at FCC headquarters, 445 12th St. SW, Washington, D.C. I hope Andrew encourages Internet Society employees to attend, making up their work later on.
In India, the telcos are trying to undermine the local efforts to connect to the remarkable BharatNet. BharatNet has brought fiber to literally hundreds of thousands of villages and hundreds of millions of people. This is by far the most important effort in the world to bring the Internet to the rural poor. ISOC, especially our Indian chapters, should be leading the effort to make sure BharatNet delivers robust Internet affordable to all. (Details on both below.)

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After 70,000 member loss, can Andrew Sullivan revive the Internet Society?

In my opinion, The Internet Society can and should be the most important advocate for a better Internet. It hasn’t been during the seven years I’ve been active. With US$30 million in annual subsidy from ICANN’s delegation of .org registrations, we have far more resources than any other independent organization. 

Instead, ISOC policies have been so uninspiring membership has fallen from 110,000 to the 40,000’s. The Internet in this period has more than doubled in size and ISOC has been spending US$millions each year on membership development, communication, etc. (The 110,000 figure is from the ISOC home page early in the year. It probably was inflated, which would be an even bigger problem.)

Sullivan is a respected technologist with experience at the IETF & in ICANN issues. I’ve had some back and forth over the years; he’s well informed on those topics. I’m sure he believes “The Internet is for everyone,” the old slogan of the Internet Society.

Former CEO Kathy Brown said ISOC must be, “Global, Independent, Democratic, Open, & Transparent.” and a “Bottom-up multistakeholder organization.” Kathy is extremely capable and a friend, but couldn’t find a way to deliver on her promises. We need strong, independent chapters. On policy, we need concrete proposals that will make a difference and inspire people to join. Here are some ways.

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No economic impact of faster broadband

In a retrospective look, George Ford of the Phoenix Center finds, “no economic payoff from the 15 Mbps speed difference.” He’s comparing 10 Mbps versus 25 Mbps broadband speeds in 2013-2015 in the U.S. Better broadband is great, but economic claims range from well-paid gibberish to essentially unproven. (My gut is there is an effect, but it’s too small to prove. Those “1.3% of GDP” type figures are absolutely unsupportable and embarrassing when quoted.)

Anyone with common sense can see this is on target. Few websites run over a megabit or three. 10 megabits is enough for 2 HD videos, plenty of surfing/homework, and five music channels. Higher speeds are great for pirating music, playing games, watching 3-5 HD TV (or sharp 4K TV,) and folks like Jennie, who does video professionally. But Jennie’s business wouldn’t suffer greatly if occasionally her uploads run overnight. 

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