Tech venture capitalists lend support to net neutrality rules
The people who invested the money that eventually brought us the Mac,Tweets and Internet search are now weighing in on Washington's biggest tech policy issue.
Investors in companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Google threw their support behind a push for proposed net neutrality rules, saying clear regulations that prevent Internet services providers from blocking the applications they help fund would spur growth in one of the brightest sectors of the economy.
The 30 investors and executives who signed a letter to the Federal Communications Commission to be delivered Wednesday come from some of the most successful firms along Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley’s cluster of venture capital firms. They include: John Doerr, a partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Beyers, an early investor in Amazon, Sun Microsystems and Google. Timothy Draper, founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, who funded Skype and Hotmail. Peter Fenton, a partner at Benchmark, who invested in Twitter and Yelp.
“Permitting network operators to close network platforms or control the applications market by favoring certain kinds of content would endanger innovation and investment in an investment sector that which represents billions of dollars of economic activity,” they wrote in the letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “The promise of permanently security an open Internet will deliver consumers and innovators a perfect free market that drives investment, job creation, and consumer welfare.”
They said the rules being pushed by Genachowski should apply to wireless platforms as well as telecom and cable networks.
The FCC will vote Thursday on a proposal to create new rules that would prevent Internet service providers from deliberately blocking legal content on the Web. In their most far-reaching form, the rules could mean that a cell phone user would be able to access the Internet voice service Skype -- which competes with wireless carriers. They could also mean that cable and telecom broadband providers could not keep any video application off their networks. Details over how carriers can manage traffic on their networks and how managed services, such as telemedicine applications, will be approached are among the general questions meant to elicit comment from the Internet service providers and public, according to an official at the FCC.
The letter was also signed by Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital (investments include Apple, Atari, and Cisco); and David Sze, a partner at Greylock Partners (investments include Facebook and LinkedIn).
The letter adds to a flurry of lobbying at the FCC over the controversial proposal. Silicon Valley executives of Web firms sent a similar letter earlier in the week to support net neutrality rules. AT&T's top lobbyist, meanwhile, asked the company's 300,000 employees to write to the agency to protest the rules. Meanwhile, a battle among lawmakers has divided Congress on the subject.
October 20, 2009; 11:00 PM ET
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