Innovation in the Crosshairs as California Again Targets Ride-Sharing

Imagine if the Florida legislature spent the past 18 months cracking down on orange growers, or if Vermont imposed tough restrictions on maple syrup makers. If those scenarios seem strangely self-destructive, then you have a good sense of how ridiculous California’s growing hostility towards the Internet innovation economy seems to us.

If we didn’t know better, we’d have to assume that California lawmakers want to extinguish the innovative industry that makes the state the envy of the world in the Internet era. How else to explain proposed regulations aimed at restricting, regulating, and weakening the dynamic business models that are the life blood of the innovation economy?

The latest target of California’s regulatory Russian roulette are the ride sharing industry leaders Uber and Lyft, which could see their emerging potential shackled by a bill championed by the powerful trial lawyers lobby.

AB 2293 would mandate that ride sharing companies pay for a staggering $1 million in liability insurance whenever a driver merely turns-on their ride-sharing app.   It’s one thing to mandate million-dollar coverage when a driver has accepted a ride request or is transporting a passenger.  But it’s ridiculous to require coverage when a driver is picking-up their dry cleaning and happens to have the app turned-on in case a nearby rider is looking for a lift.

To provide some perspective here, the $1 million mandate is three times the coverage that Los Angeles requires of its taxi drivers.  Why so much more coverage, you wonder?  You’d have to ask the trial lawyers behind the bill, who want to turn ordinary traffic accidents into million-dollar bonanzas.

Uber and Lyft are sufficiently established to pay these outrageous insurance premiums and pass much of the cost along to drivers and riders.  But consider what this would mean for new companies we haven’t even heard about.  When a new innovator comes along with a fresh new approach to the ride sharing concept, the insurance mandate would present a formidable barrier to entry.

Moreover, massive insurance mandates will constrain growth of new services where the app might be active for much of a drive – before picking up a rider.  Envision a future where ridesharing is a ubiquitous experience, when driving around in an empty car is like tossing an aluminum can in the garbage.  It could become second nature to signal to others that you’ve got capacity in your car while driving about town. Requiring a million in insurance just because you’ve signaled that you have room in your car will virtually guarantee this vision won’t be realized.

If California lawmakers believe the trial lawyers’ tale that we need million-dollar coverage when we merely turn-on an app in our cars, what’s next on their legislative target list?

Is California going to require that provide $1 million in liability coverage whenever its users have the app turned-on to monitor traffic?   Will Starbucks have to provide $1 million liability coverage whenever users activate the Starbucks app to locate the closest caffeine fix?

Think that sounds ridiculous?   That’s precisely what the trial lawyers want: get lawmakers to mandate a million-dollar payday whenever an accident happens to a driver whose mobile phone was turned on.

Californians need to sound the alarm in Sacramento before this bad idea becomes an awful law and a self-destructive precedent for the state’s innovation economy.


Spain cuts the fabric of the Internet with its new tax


The Internet is a collection of different sites interwoven together through “links.”  Now imagine an Internet without links.  Can’t do it, can you?  That’s because the web depends on interconnectivity of content – it is the thread that makes up the fabric of the internet.  But some aggressive European countries seeking to wangle in and wrangle money from the online world want to limit online links. 

We all know about the new European requirement for search engines to remove links – but now Spain wants search engines to pay for just displaying links.

READ MORE at The Hill

Death and Social Media: Don’t Strip Delaware Citizens of their Privacy


bill awaiting Governor Markell’s signature would override your privacy choices about what happens to your online accounts when you die.

Lawmakers across the country are increasingly confronting the question of what happens to Americans’ digital lives when they die. It’s a question worth careful consideration. Unfortunately for Delaware internet users, lawmakers in Dover have reached the wrong answer.

The Delaware legislation forces your email providers and online services to expose our personal communications when we die.  For many of us this is no big deal.  But consider the personal, sensitive, and confidential communications of spouses, doctors, psychiatrists, or addiction counselors. Read more

The Real Motivation Behind the Attack on Ride Sharing


While ride-sharing technologies, such as Uber and Lyft, are creating never-before-achieved efficiencies in transportation, not everyone is celebrating those achievements.

Some have taken the rise of sharing-economy business models as a signal to retrench, protect the status quo, stifle innovation and, in some cases, turn a tidy profit by cracking down on ride-sharing services in state legislatures and insurance commissions.

Fortunately, members of the national media are increasingly savvy to this tactic and what drives it. This week, Joe Garofoli of the San Francisco Chronicle shed some light on the real motivation for this attack on the ground-breaking technology: Read more

Arkansas Governor and AG’s Photography Law Out-of-Sync with Their Priorities


Over the past several years, law enforcement has utilized new cutting-edge technologies to apprehend the most violent of criminals – murders, rapists and abductors. One such innovation, known as license plate recognition (LPR), takes photographs of license plates and logs their time and location, creating a searchable database that has allowed police to reduce investigation times and get felons off the streets.

However, a new law recently signed by Governor Mike Beebe, could put an end to LPR use in Arkansas, hamstringing law enforcement by limiting the use of a critical crime-fighting tool that helped solve thousands of violent crime cases across the country.

READ MORE at North Little Rock Times

Want to Make a Difference in Internet Governance? Just Show Up


It was 20 years earlier than ICANN, and 25 years ahead of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) that Woody Allen said “80 percent of life is just showing up,” but he could have just as easily been talking about our current multistakeholder policy situation.

The emergence of powerful multistakeholder governance and engagement models has fundamentally changed the way we do Internet policy, and the roles that companies, organizations and individuals play in the process. The days when business, for instance, could sit on the sidelines and intercede only when policy reached an inflection point, are long gone.

To succeed in today’s landscape, industry has to show up early, often, and in force. The IGF-USA takes place in Washington DC July 16th, and my message to business colleagues can be described in two words: Show up.