Pro-Neutrality, Anti-Title II

Source: Pro-Neutrality, Anti-Title II — Stratechery

Any regulation, including those around net neutrality, should be put to a cost-benefit analysis. In this case regulation advocates come up short.

I am amenable to Congress passing a law specifically banning ISPs from blocking content, but believe that for everything else, including paid prioritization, we are better off taking a “wait-and-see” approach; after all, we are just as likely to “see” new products and services as we are to see startup foreclosure. And, to be sure, this is an issue than can — and should, if the evidence changes — be visited again.

What is worth far more attention is the state of competition in broadband generally: ISPs have lobbied for limits on public broadband in 25 states, and many local governments make it prohibitively expensive for new ISPs to challenge incumbents (and Title II requirements don’t help either). Increasing competition would not only have the same positive outcomes for customers that T-Mobile demonstrated, but would solve the (mostly theoretical) net neutrality issue at the same time: the greatest check on an ISP is the likelihood of an unsatisfied customer leaving.


Part 2: “Light Touch”, Cable, and DSL; The Broadband Tradeoff; The Importance of Antitrust — Stratechery

I absolutely support regulation of ISPs and the preservation of the neutrality (at least in terms of blocking content), I just think we should stick to ex-post instead of ex-ante until there is compelling evidence of systematic abuse.

The question that must be grappled with, though, is whether or not the Internet is “done.” By that I mean that today’s bandwidth is all we all never need, which means we can risk chilling investment through prophylactic regulation and the elimination of price signals that may spur infrastructure build-out … But what if we aren’t done? What if … all kinds of unimagined commercial applications? I certainly hope we will have the bandwidth to support all of that!

Who, though, will build that bandwidth? … And yet, the fact that wired broadband in particular is a natural monopoly remains, raising the question of how you incentivize investment in ever faster broadband?

These tradeoffs are brutally difficult.

What is not at all helpful, though, is framing these trade-offs as moral choices. It is to society’s detriment that this really rather esoteric issue has become so tribalistic in nature: how can we properly evaluate and balance the trade-offs we need to make in issue after issue if everything is cast as good versus evil?

When is a Dollar not a Dollar?

Source: When is a Dollar not a Dollar?

An exploration of how the business value of a dollar varies depending on the context.

  1. Money has different marginal value to a customer depending on where it falls on their balance sheet.
  2. Some types of revenue require a lot more effort and resources to earn than other types.
  3. Timing matters, and a dollar today is worth more than a dollar next year.
  1. Cost vs. Revenue
  2. The Principal-Agent Problem
  3. Existing Expense vs. New Expense
    Companies and teams often have existing budgets for common expenses.
  4. Above vs. Below Discretionary Spending Limits
  5. Selling Services vs. Customized Products vs Off-the-shelf Products
    Different types of revenue have very different scaling characteristics.
  6. Selling to Many Stakeholders vs. One Stakeholder
    Products with many stakeholders are hard to sell because you have to make everyone happy — but different stakeholders will have different, often conflicting, incentives and preferences.
  7. Monthly vs. Upfront Payments
  8. Selling vs. Upselling
    It’s typically easier to sell more products to an existing customer than to find a new customer.


Although cost-dollars-saved are fully and immediately realized, cost cutting is limited — the most cost that can be saved is 1x expenses. There is far greater potential for revenue growth than for cost cutting.

The Big Vitamin D Mistake

Source: The Big Vitamin D Mistake, Papadimitriou DT. J Prev Med Public Health. 2017.

J Prev Med Public Health. 2017 Jul;50(4):278-281. doi: 10.3961/jpmph.16.111. Epub 2017 May 10.

A statistical error in the estimation of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D was recently discovered … The largest meta-analysis ever conducted of studies published between 1966 and 2013 showed that 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels <75 nmol/L may be too low for safety and associated with higher all-cause mortality, demolishing the previously presumed U-shape curve of mortality associated with vitamin D levels. Since all-disease mortality is reduced to 1.0 with serum vitamin D levels ≥100 nmol/L, we call public health authorities to consider designating as the RDA at least three-fourths of the levels proposed by the Endocrine Society Expert Committee as safe upper tolerable daily intake doses.

The Pollyannish Assumption — Stratechery

Source: The Pollyannish Assumption — Stratechery, by Ben Thompson

Moderating user-generated content is hard: it is easier, though, with a realistic understanding that the Internet reflects humanity — it is capable of both good and evil.

One of the seminal Stratechery posts is called Friction, and while I’ve linked it many times this line is particularly apt:

Friction makes everything harder, both the good we can do, but also the unimaginably terrible. In our zeal to reduce friction and our eagerness to celebrate the good, we ought not lose sight of the potential bad.

This is exactly the root of the problem: I don’t believe these platforms so much drive this abhorrent content as they make it easier than ever before for humans to express themselves, and the reality of what we are is both more amazing and more awful than most anyone ever appreciated.

The point of user reports is to leverage the scale of the Internet to police its own unfathomable scale … That approach, though, clearly isn’t enough: it is rooted in the pollyannish view of the Internet I described above — the idea that everything is mostly good but for some bad apples. A more realistic view — that humanity is capable of both great beauty and tremendous evil, and that the Internet makes it easier to express both — demands a more proactive approach. … alas, being proactive is a sure recipe for false positives.

focus on being neutral … actively seek out and remove content that is widely considered objectionable, … take a strict hands-off policy to everything that isn’t … far more transparency than currently exists … make explicitly clear what sort of content they are actively policing, and what they are not

Warrant Protections against Police Searches of Our Data – Schneier on Security

Source: Warrant Protections against Police Searches of Our Data – Schneier on Security

The cell phones we carry with us constantly are the most perfect surveillance device ever invented, and our laws haven’t caught up to that reality.

Traditionally, information that was most precious to us was physically close to us. It was on our bodies, in our homes and offices, in our cars. Because of that, the courts gave that information extra protections. Information that we stored far away from us, or gave to other people, afforded fewer protections. … The Internet has turned that thinking upside-down. … all our data is literally stored on computers belonging to other people. It’s our e-mail, text messages, photos, Google docs, and more all in the cloud. We store it there not because it’s unimportant, but precisely because it is important.

The issue here is not whether the police should be allowed to use that data to help solve crimes. Of course they should. The issue is whether that information should be protected by the warrant process that requires the police to have probable cause to investigate you and get approval by a court.