Morning Report: Recalling Investor Sentiment On The Net Neutrality Question

Morning Report: The net neutrality battle is heating up once again. Let’s recall the stakes.

Net neutrality is back. The previously popular issue, partially laid to rest under Tom Wheeler’s FCC, is a news item once again.

As before, the stakes are quite high. To start our week, it’s worth considering where we are in terms of new FCC action contra to the extant net neutrality regulations and what changes to the system might mean for startup and investors alike.

A recent Wall Street Journal story concerning the current situation has the sentences we need:

“[FCC Chairman] Mr. Pai could announce his game plan as soon as this month to start acting at the commission’s May meeting, according to some people familiar with the matter. His timing will be crucial.”

Why is the question of timing so critical to Chairman Pai? The Journal, continuing, has a good synthesis:

The threat of online protests appears to be adding to pressure on Mr. Pai to go fast. A number of legal experts believe the chairman could try to take some kind of immediate action, such as seeking a declaratory or interpretive ruling from the commission that instantly reverses the agency’s core 2015 decision to reclassify internet service providers as common carriers. But some question whether any immediate action would be upheld in a court challenge.

Conservative activists are hoping Mr. Pai can persevere in the face of the all-out protests that are likely coming, particularly in the event of a drawn-out FCC proceeding.

If you recall prior public protests concerning government digital dealing (SOPA, net neutrality, etc), the risk of “online protests” is real. At several points in recent history, dramatic Internet responses to proposed governmental digital rule-making has been raised, including blackouts of popular sites. For all the dismissal of slacktivism, there is some proven potential energy in online protest.

So, here’s where we are today: There is a chance of net neutrality repeal, and there is a chance of protest, and there is a combined chance that protest could slow or limit or end repeal; the other side of that final coin is valid as well.

But while we don’t have a crystal ball at our sides about what might happen next, we can lean on prior prognostications to describe what might happen if net neutrality does fail.

Back in 2014, when the FCC was considering allowing so-called “fast lanes” online, TechCrunch quoted (in an article I wrote) venture capitalist Josh Felser saying the following:

The latest proposal from the FCC on net neutrality now adds another impediment to the already challenging fund-raising environment for digital media startups. I don’t know if either of my startups, Spinner and Crackle, would have successfully raised funding or more importantly been viable businesses if this new proposal had been implemented then.

And it’s worth considering in the time, today, when Buzzfeed may go public, and Spotify needs to go public, and Snap just went public, how far the marketplace for digital goods and services could change if ISPs got what some want: gatekeeper power amidst both content and content delivery conflicts of interest.

We’re back to this.

From the Crunchbase Daily:

Walmart planning Bonobos purchase

  • Walmart is in advanced discussions to acquire online men’s fashion retailer Bonobos, according to a Recode report citing unnamed sources. If the deal goes through, it will be Walmart’s fourth e-commerce acquisition in seven months and likely the second-largest after discount site New York-based Bonobos, founded in 2007, has raised more than $125 million in venture funding.

Uber offers a peak at finances

  • Uber revealed some details about its finances for a Bloomberg article, revealing that gross bookings more than doubled to $20 billion in 2016. Net revenue was $6.5 billion, while adjusted net losses were $2.8 billion, excluding the China business, which it sold last summer.

Smart building poised for growth

  • While funding in the smart building sector has seen its share of ups and downs in recent years, experts say the space is on the verge of a potential boom, Crunchbase News reports. Investment is up this year, led by big deals like the $100 million February round for dynamic glass manufacturer View.


Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.


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