Protecting The Internet Through Its Core Innovators
Today I step into one of the best jobs on the planet, with some of the highest stakes. I’m aware that seems hyperbolic. What we do at i2Coalition is really that awesome, but also that important. i2Coalition fights to save the Internet, and that too isn’t hyperbole.
What’s so awesome about the Internet?
It’s important to look at what has made the Internet such an incredibly world-changing thing. The simple fact that no one group built it, and no one entity owns it, means that it lives outside the control of (literally) everyone. Governments don’t decide what can and can’t go up on a website or in an email just as corporations can’t keep you from starting a disruptive business with your own ideas. Individuals have the power to potentially change the world with what they say or do using this disruptive tool, and there’s nobody there to stop them.
How did this happen?
Most people really don’t understand that the vast majority of companies who build the Internet’s infrastructure are small businesses, or at the very least started that way. The Internet became the incredible tool it is simply because of its low barriers to entry, allowing nearly anyone to start a new company anywhere. The accounts of intrepid, young entrepreneurs starting million dollar companies in their basement, dorm room or garage are now legendary, however it is important to understand the environment that made those opportunities possible. It is a fiercely competitive field specifically because the Internet is a nearly ‘permissionless’ environment where anyone with an idea and some know-how has a shot in competition with everyone else, including billion dollar behemoths.
In part, this is because in the early days of the Internet, legislators decided to let this innovation grow without assigning undue regulation. It would have been easy for government officials from around the globe to decide that anybody who wants to use the Internet needed to meet certain procedural and technological criteria from day one. They didn’t, and the lack of regulation led to frictionless innovation in the Internet infrastructure space, on which the entire digital innovation economy was built.
So what exactly needs ‘saving’ so badly these days?
We’ve got two very high-stakes threats we’re facing conceptually, along with a number of important battles in the war for Internet freedom that we need to fight and win. The big picture we’re fighting:
- Government overreach
Both are fundamental threats to the awesomeness of the Internet.
Basically, we have a gatekeeper issue. Some, is an understandable cost of growing up. The Internet is a great place but it is also dangerous. Should regulators choose to apply certain rules in the wrong way, they risk upsetting the balance of the Internet. They risk heading us down the path of incumbency, a world where only the large players can survive and innovation suffers
At i2Coalition we don’t see incumbent industries as an ‘enemy’ to the Internet, but we do look at them as a cautionary tale. The Internet’s infrastructure is the heart of the innovation economy. For the innovation economy to continue to growth and thrive, the Internet’s infrastructure needs to stay entrepreneurial, competitive and open. Kill the competitiveness of the Internet’s infrastructure and you kill what’s special about the Internet in the process.
If we lose these important fights, the Internet will still exist, but it’s going to be a lot less awesome. It may look more like cable television or any of the other mediums controlled by a few large organizations in a few relatively innocuous flavors. If we lose the battles in front of us, the Internet doesn’t go away, but everything that’s special about it – including your ability to use it as a tool to change your world or all of ours, goes away too. That’s what I mean when I say the stakes are huge.
How is i2Coalition acting to save the Internet?
We give a collective voice to the companies that build the Internet. We fight for their interests as the Internet grows and matures, to make sure that it doesn’t grow up in a way that pushes them out. We’re particularly focused on small business issues, but we also really care about the Internet user.. We use the power of the combined voices of all these innovative companies to make sure that our stewardship of the Internet includes leaving a tool to the next generation that is still a bastion of free speech and open communication. As the people who build the Internet, we work hard to be its fiercest protectors.
In 2016, we have an exciting legislative agenda and we are doubling down on efforts to make the Internet a better, safer place through our own collective action. After all, the Internet does have problems that need to be solved. We need to come together to do more than just address legislative solutions.
What’s different now that i2Coalition has an Executive Director?
This organization is three years old, and I am its first Executive Director. We got by on the strength of an incredible staff, but also three years of intense volunteerism by members who drove the organization to great successes. However, we’ve never had an executive here full-time, ready to take what we do and maximize its global potential. I’m excited to be the one to do that.
I plan to make 2016 our most productive year yet on the areas we are already engaged, and I plan to drive us into new areas, including:
- Development of a global strategy to expand i2Coalition scope beyond its current engagements, including a deep focus on making an EU impact.
- Deepening of our commitments to partner organizations with whom we engage in best common practices initiatives, to expand our ability to make a better Internet together.
- Aiding in the generation of an Internet education campaign to assist legislators and regulators worldwide in understanding how the Internet works.
- Creation of a series of demographic reports for members, to provide them with actionable intelligence about the Internet infrastructure industry, along with other member benefits.
But mostly I’m going to prepare us for the biggest fights of our lives. Those who wish to control or squash the importance of the Internet are preparing to do their worst. The coming years will test our collective willpower on serious fights around government access to data and encryption, security and privacy, patents and copyrights, governmental roles in Internet governance and much more. We need to be prepared, because the people on the other side definitely are.
I believe in the power of the Internet, and I can think of no greater honor than to step into the role of Executive Director for an organization that serves as the collective voice for those who build it. I take this honor seriously, and thank the Internet infrastructure community for your continued support.