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Meet the FCC commissioner actively fighting for net neutrality

(BUSINESS NEWS) Net neutrality is an issue that demands attention and one commissioner on the FCC refuses to let it go without.

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clyburn net neutrality

So long sweet internet

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is about to abolish the Open Internet Order, a.k.a. net neutrality, which regulates both internet service providers (ISPs) and wireless companies by preventing them from showing favoritism to certain content and websites.

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However, Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn is absolutely against the removal of the Open Internet Order and isn’t backing down.

Free and open no longer

“Is the FCC shirking away from its responsibility to ensure all Americans have affordable access to communications services?” asked Clyburn at the Connected Communities Public Forum on Access and Affordability in Los Angeles. “Things like affordable broadband service, competition, a free and open internet, viewpoint diversity, just and reasonable phone rates for inmates and their families who need to stay in touch and basic privacy protections. Are these objectives being slowly dismantled under this administration?”

The first vote on this reversal of so-called net neutrality will take place on May 18.

As it stands, the law prevents ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast from prioritizing their own websites and services, or impeding those of their competitors. That means that Comcast can’t make Netflix super slow just because it competes with their own streaming shows, nor can it give its own content a speed boost.

Clyburn’s solution is a call to action:

“In just a matter of days, the FCC’s majority will tee up an item aimed at dismantling the open internet protections that so many Americans fought for and won back in 2015 – over 4 million comments were filed to be exact,” she said. “So we cannot afford to remain silent.”

In spite of anti-regulatory rhetoric that claims favoritism just doesn’t happen, many say now more than ever we need guidelines for the ISPs that merge with content providers and have an even greater incentive to prioritize their own content, regardless of customer demand.

For example

Let’s use Comcast as a case study: it owns the NBCUniversal empire, which includes TV, movies, ad home videos. Comcast has also invested a ton of money into sites like Buzzfeed and Vox Media, and it’s also a big investor at Hulu. As if that wasn’t enough, Comcast also reportedly has plans to launch even more of its own online streaming services any day now.

And why, exactly, should we trust Comcast, a for-profit business, to stay neutral?

The list goes on. AT&T is working on acquiring Time Warner, and it has already shown financial favoritism by discounting access to one of Time Warner’s major players (HBO) to market the AT&T wireless service and streaming platform. And Verizon is reportedly looking to do basically the same thing with our friend Comcast.

Nothing stopping them

“If the FCC’s majority and the big broadband providers get their way,” says Clyburn, “your internet service provider could charge you even more to access your preferred websites, or worse, block those sites altogether.”

Clyburn also pointed out that if the big name ISPs and wireless companies are doing this, basically everyone is, as far as most of the country is concerned.

“Did you know that when it comes to broadband access at home, just 20% of Americans have a choice of two providers or more?” she noted. “Without real competition, are companies really incentivized to improve customer service, service quality, or pricing?”

And the choices that do exist aren’t exactly customer service pros. Clyburn cited a survey by Consumer Reports from last year that found only about a third of Americans felt satisfied with their service.

“I find this highly alarming. Why is it that some of the largest communications providers in this country consistently rank among the lowest in consumer satisfaction?” asked Clyburn. “Could it possibly have anything to do with a lack of robust competition?”

With Clyburn sorely outnumbered in the FCC, she urges the public to fight for net neutrality for their own sakes.

“Do not stay silent and accept the absence of broadband competition,” she said. “No one should be shortchanged because of where they live or how much money they make . . . Are you willing to stand up, demand from us, and join forces with those who are willing to fight, to ensure you and your families have robust, affordable communications services and that there is a media landscape that reflects the rich diversity found in your community?”

#NetNeutrality

Staff Writer, Natalie Bradford earned her B.A. in English from Cornell University and spends a lot of time convincing herself not to bake MORE brownies. She enjoys cats, cocktails, and good films - preferably together. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Business News

How well-meaning diversity and inclusion hiring practices could backfire

(BUSINESS) More companies than ever are considering their diversity and inclusion hiring practices and internal culture, but there is an unintended consequence already happening that could easily be stopped.

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diversity and inclusion practices

It is a widely accepted fact that hiring for diversity improves profitability, whether a small business or a massive company that pours resources into diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices companywide. You probably already know this, but if it’s news to you, Google around – it leads to improved innovation (since you’ve avoided an echo chamber), customer support ranks better for diverse teams (since your team has a wider ability to address more pain points), and it attracts more talent.

Imagine if you build a company and fill it with people that look, act, sound, and think like you. And imagine how agreeable everyone is during every moment of production, and no diversity of thought is ever injected. Any investor can tell you it’s a death sentence. To be blunt, it’s hiring “yes men,” so to speak, and does little more than serve your ego (consciously or subconciously).

American culture has rapidly evolved regarding diversity and inclusion (D&I). There are entire teams in companies dedicated to it (#profitability). I can tell you firsthand that the people devoting their jobs to this really do care. And today, more than ever, the topic of race (which is only one of many components of diversity) is top of mind, so we must all individually, and as companies, push to improve our workplace for the BIPOC while also remembering the LGBTQIA+ community, avoiding ageism, and so forth.

And while positivity surrounding D&I practices abounds, something is happening that is going to backfire.

Businesses are resorting to a “checklist” mindset wherein a CEO says, “we don’t have enough Hispanic women or trans employees, fix that” and drops the figurative mic. It sounds noble to see there is room to improve, but diversity and inclusion is about creating a company culture and hiring practices wherein people aren’t discriminated against, NOT fulfilling some impossible checklist.

I was in a meeting of a company inviting us to be on their board, and one of their first questions was if we knew any black women or Asian men that would join the board because they already had “most of the rest of the rainbow.” Again, sounds like the right direction, but it’s a hollow effort if you’re building a rainbow, not examining merit, not building out an actual culture of inclusion. Try harder.

And that brings us to a weak spot in this practice that we’re already seeing come to fruition. Large companies, particularly in the tech sector, are putting in the real effort to be inclusive, but it’s backfiring.

Companies are inadvertently segmenting their populations for D&I purposes, and while it’s not some evil plot, it negates all D&I programs. We’re witnessing “diverse” companies allow their teams to be built out, diversity-free. Perhaps their development teams are only white men, their marketing teams are only white and Hispanic women, their support teams are primarily Indian Americans, their sales teams are mostly black team members.

It’s wild to walk into a large company and see this strange… segregation.

It is natural to surround yourself with people that look like you, and I have endless theories on this topic, but I’ll confess to you that most of my thoughts have been influenced by reading “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum back when I was in high school (required reading for anyone pondering the topic of race now or in the future). And many practices are well-meaning, but companies are sabotaging themselves with flawed methods.

A company might look great as a whole with various ages, races, religions, gender identities, ethnicities, sexuality, national origin, and so forth, but if they’re all segregated into their own teams based on how they were hired (or by whom), it’s literally the opposite of diversity or inclusion. Swing and a miss, y’all.

If you’re in a decision making role at your company, please bring this topic up as soon as possible, and examine how your own diversity efforts are going – are you sincere, or just looking for positive press?

Are you helping overall?

Or just making things worse?

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Business News

Etsy is trying on second-hand fashion with purchase of Depop

(BUSINESS NEWS) With the younger generation moving away from fast fashion, it makes sense that Etsy has acquired one of the most popular Gen Z second hand apps.

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Woman looking at a rack of clothes in a second hand thrift store

Over the last few years, sustainable shopping has been a bullet point in the large-scale topic of the environment. Burning through clothing by disposing of old clothing and shopping from places specializing in “fast fashion” is causing damage to the earth.

According to the UN Environment Programme, the fashion industry is the second largest consumer of water and is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

As a result, shopping second hand has become more popular, as opposed to mass-produced fast fashion. Online platforms like Poshmark and ThredUp have grown tremendously over the last 3 to 5 years.

Now, Etsy is getting in on the resale action through its acquisition of Depop – a second hand fashion app that allows for the buying and selling of used fashion items.

Etsy paid $1.6 billion to acquire the UK-founded company, which has attracted a younger, Gen Z-based audience due to its social media use and messaging on shopping in an ethical and environmentally-friendly fashion.

Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said the company was “thrilled” to be adding what it believes to be the “resale home for Gen Z consumers” to Etsy. Depop has approximately 30 million registered users spanning 150 countries.

“Depop is a vibrant, two-sided marketplace with a passionate community, a highly-differentiated offering of unique items, and we believe significant potential to further scale,” Silverman said in a statement Wednesday.

“We see significant opportunities for shared expertise and growth synergies across what will now be a tremendous ‘house of brands’ portfolio of individually distinct, and very special, ecommerce brands.”

Due to the COVID-related e-commerce boom, shares of Etsy have more than doubled in the last year. The stock was up about 6.7% Wednesday afternoon.

According to data from Crunchbase, Depop had raised a total of $105.6 million from investors including General Atlantic, Creandum, Balderton Capital, Octopus Ventures and Klarna CEO and co-founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski, prior to their agreement with Etsy.

With fashion being so cyclical, it may be safe to say that second hand will never fully go out of style.

What are your thoughts on resale apps being the answer to fast fashion woes? Let us know in the comments.

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Business News

As masks become optional, businesses find themselves stuck in the middle

(BUSINESS NEWS) One liquor store’s decision on mask policy following changes in local laws has become a recurring story throughout the nation.

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Woman in front of small business with two children, all wearing face masks

The American mask debate has comprised a whirlwind of clashing political ideologies, legal dilemmas, and personal agendas, with businesses placed directly in the middle of the storm. As the pandemic continues to run its course, a disparity in state mandates and legislation is only serving to increase the strain on these establishments.

With increased access to vaccines and several states rolling back their COVID guidance, the option to wear—or not wear—masks is becoming more discretionary, with businesses often having the final say in whether or not they expect masks to be used on their premises. One such business, a liquor store, posted a notice regarding their staff’s decision to continue wearing masks:

“In accordance with Johnson County mandates: Masks are now optional. Please do not berate, verbally assault, or otherwise attack the staff over their choice to continue wearing masks.”

The notice went on to say, “It is painfully depressing we have to make this request.”

That last line epitomizes many business owners’ stances. Places across the country have started allowing customers to discard their masks with proof of vaccination, but if employees choose to keep their masks for the time being, it’s difficult for clients not to view it as a kind of political statement—despite their decisions often being corroborated by local laws.

And, as long as businesses continue to operate within the confines of those laws, their decisions should be free from public scrutiny.

Sadly, that’s not what’s happening as evidenced by the notice posted by the liquor store in Johnson County. The same disparity that allows for some freedom despite COVID still being present in many Americans’ lives often leaves those who choose not to wear masks to conclude that those who do wear them are being judgmental or unnecessarily cautious.

Those judgements work in reverse as well, with businesses who allow their employees to work maskless facing criticism from masked clients. It seems that the freedom to choose—something for which people strongly advocated throughout the pandemic—continues to cause separation.

As businesses change or adapt their regulations to fit state mandates and employee (and customer) concerns, everyone would do well to remember that the decisions these establishments make are usually meant to affect some kind of positive work environment—not to welcome harassment and abuse.

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