J. Brian Anderson

technology. venture. learning. together.

- 9 - High speed internet as a public good.

First up, let me ask you a favor preemptively tell me why you think I'm wrong.  Tell me why my argument doesn't make sense, and that you've facts that I don't.  I'd love to understand why I may be wrong because without that, ideas can and will only stay, immature and perhaps even deeply flawed.  Onward.

When did your Internet service actually get better or cheaper?  Let me guess, never.

Through how many Internet Service Providers can you get to the web?  1, 2 maybe 3 if you include mobile?


After listening to Aman Brar of Apparatus, Brad Wheeler the CIO of Indiana University at the Indianapolis Business Journal power breakfast and Alex Ohanian the co-founder of Reddit at SXSWi in Austin, I had the galvanizing moment I’d been searching for for a long time – I think that the democratized access to high speed cost-effective Internet and the digital world is the modern day economic rights issue of our generation. 

Why?  Because access to ideas, new forms of free education, and eCommerce enables people to advance with far greater speed than those without.  Proof? In a McKinsey & Co study, the internet accounted for 21% of GDP growth in developed countries between 2006 and 2011 and most of that growth was accounted for by small and medium sized business (global).  Additionally for us to have an internet penetration of 78.3% (2011), 27th in the world, as the country who invented the technology is damn embarrassing.

Isn’t it time we take the correlation between high speed internet and ecommerce and our GDP growth more seriously by investing in internet infrastructure as a public good?  With cities like Kansas City lobbying heavily and securing Google Fiber, and Chattanooga securing 1 Gigabit internet (CBS video report), and others investing heavily into high-speed internet infrastructure they’re enabling their populace to interact, educate and capitalize on digital access in new an importantly, unpredictable ways.  How are we able to reinvent education through cost effective means when in many cases the cost to have high speed is an annual $600 per/year?  This may not be a problem for many people, but who I fear for most, are those brilliant young minds yet to impact our world who as of yet don’t have the access or knowledge of what they might be missing.

I’d never argue that safety, nourishment, housing, education, and basic heat and water are without question more important public goods that the US population deserve, but what I would argue is that globalized connection and communication offered through the internet should be considered a proximal right to those government supported programs.  It’s time to make large telecommunication monopolies compete on quality, speed of service AND COST not just on geography, by investing in our own digital wellbeing. 

I come to this position with a high degree of skepticism because of my natural propensity is to believe that the private sector should be the mechanism that delivers and services cost effective non-public goods. But how can we reasonably argue that Internet access is any different than let’s say mail service 50 years ago? (which of course ironically has been nearly replaced by internet service).  Additionally, the belief that the public sector can't provide these services is flat out wrong.

It's time our leaders take a stand for the digital good of the people, the Midwest and Indiana by embracing our New American future as a technologically bound union of states and make brave investments in our digitally connected futures by at least publicly exploring the opportunity of owning, supporting and creating our digital identity by breaking the traditional telecommunication structure into smaller more dispersed pieces. At a minimum it will put competitive pressure on these service delivery agencies to more cost-effectively offer Internet access, which I believe will allow the populace to create the digitally enabled future we so desire.  


ant more?

  • One of my heros Tim Wu wrote about information monopolies in his amazing  must-read book for entrepreneurs, “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires”



-7- Midwest startup qualities

5. Humility - It’s that old fashion Midwest sense of humility that keeps people grounded.  Sure many of the start-ups have been written about and featured in national press BUT that doesn’t make a successful venture or entrepreneur.  The press and hype machine tends not to affect Midwest entrepreneurs.

4. Capital Efficiency - Many entrepreneurs know they aren’t going to raise/invest an $XX,000,0000 USD (re: Color [for better or worse]), so they tend to acquire customers quickly to float product and advance company development.  I love the focus on getting customers on board - dare I say many Midwest start-ups were ‘lean’ before it became a book.  (which is still great, if you live underneath a rock and don’t know here —-::Lean Startup link::)

3. Trustworthiness - The start-up community is small enough that no one can afford to jerk each other around whether it’s capital, hiring or competition.  We all tend to work well and even better together.  Capital providers share deal flow and entrepreneurs tend to share ideas and strategy.  Deals get done with a handshake.

2. Work Ethic - How hard are Midwest entrepreneurs working? VERY. We don’t have a huge teams to make things happen, it’s up to us to solve our own problems.  There is no big recruit or talented employee who’s going to ‘save’ the company - it’s just the elbow grease and sleepless nights that tend to get it done.

1. ACCESS - Everyone I know in the Midwest startup scene - Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Columbus etc is available.  It’s a realistic belief that you can get access to almost anyone you want in the Midwest because, you likely have a pretty close connection to them (even if you don’t know it).  People move mountains to make important connections out here —- there are very few people whom you can not reach.

That’s my list of the top 5 Midwest entrepreneurial qualities, what are yours?  Leave a reply or comment and let me know what you think, agree/or disagree.


-6- Pattern Paper + Kickstarter

I backed a really compelling high-design Indianapolis/Midwest Fashion Magazine on Kickstarter the other day -  PATTERN INDY.  The really great thing about this is not just Pattern and the people involved with the effort - it is that people who are interested in consuming this specific type of content (localfashiondesign) are now able to back the effort through the product/design crowd-funding site Kickerstarter.com.  What I find amazing about this is that there are so few impediments between a designer and the funders who want to make it happen.  There are real limitations to this platform, but Kickstarter now funds more projects $150M (projected) in 2012 than the National Endowment of the Arts $146M (Yancey Strickler citation).

My take away is that while government grants and endowments continue to decline across the board as a result of necessary reprioritizations of Gov’t expenditures, there are still powerful ways to launch amazing products and services via customers who contribute nearly unimpeded.  Many if not all on Tumblr know about this already but the statistics on aggregate funding are staggering and speak to the power of Web 2.0 and the future of consumer led art, design, product, and service.  Amazing what a well-cut video and articulate description will do for a nascent company with a defined product vision!  


Here are some awesome people working on the project such as…

Ben Blevins @Ballarde - Very smart local focused supporter/critic 

Janneane Blevins @Janneane - Unique style conissoeur who’s involved with respected agency KA+A

Kathy Davis on the beautiful layouts (re:correction thanks Polina!)

Polina Osherov @POsherov - Magazine and advertisement expert - *she is in fact the photographer! - and by the looks of it a good one*

Nikki Sutton @LEVELNikki - Bright interior designer who was the design lead at @SpeakEasyIndy

… and Ian Stikelleather, Kenan Farrel (@KLFLegal) and Leslie Turner (LModelz) who I have not met yet.


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