Author Archives: Larry Downes

Announcing the Lewis Latimer Plan for Digital Equity and Inclusion

I’m pleased to announce the publication of the Lewis Latimer Plan for Digital Equity and Inclusion, for which I served as volunteer co-author and editor-in-chief.  The Plan, commissioned by the National Urban League, is a comprehensive agenda for closing what remains of the U.S. digital divide.

The plan, including a detailed executive summary, can be found here:  https://nul.org/program/lewis-latimer-plan

The Latimer Plan occupied much of my time last year, and I’m excited to see it finally in print, just as Washington is beginning to debate infrastructure, a key (though not the sole) component of our plan.  Though the Biden approach to network availability differs significantly from the Latimer plan, the goals of the two plans are the same, and it may be turn out that the Latimer approach wins out as the more cost-effective, timely, pragmatic, and bi-partisan.  We’ll see!

How will Biden regulate tech? Carefully.

This week in MIT Sloan Management Review, Larry proposed a series of solutions to looming crises in the regulation of disruptive innovation. The article, “How Should the Biden Administration Approach Tech Regulation? With Great Care,” proposed five principles lawmakers have traditionally followed in regulating emerging technologies, but which have fallen out of favor in the last decade as the pace of technological change continues to accelerate. Larry argues that the relative slowness of law favors less, not more, intervention.

Larry also participated in a lively debate with SMR editor in chief Paul Michelman about his proposal. You can listen to in on the SMR website.

A Measured Approach to Regulating Tech

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Today for Harvard Business Review, Larry cautions regulators of potentially transformative technologies to consider likely benefits as well as potential costs, and try to find a balance between the two. With so much of the tech-related news focused on harms, many of them unquantified or carefully studied, we risk losing out on some of the most important breakthroughs still to come from the digital revolution.

Five Strategic Imperatives for Surviving Disruption in the Post-COVID Economy

MIT Sloan Management Review - Wikipedia

In a new article published this week in MIT Sloan Management Review, Larry and his co-authors assess the impact of the global pandemic on continuing digital disruption. COVID-19, they conclude, has accelerated disruptive trends already well underway, in particular with regard to consumer demand for digital devices, networks, and services.

Businesses and other institutions hoping to survive, let alone thrive, in a post-COVID economy will need to accelerate efforts to embrace innovative virtual business practices, internally and externally.

The article offers five disruption imperatives, pragmatic strategies that leading enterprises have already adopted.

Learning from the COVID-19 Crisis

Larry and National Broadband Plan author Blair Levin published a white paper this week with the Aspen Institute on the Internet’s many contributions to managing the COVID-19 crisis. The authors propose an initiative to review remaining gaps in the digital transformation of business, a cross between the NBP and the 9/11 Commission. Read their recommendations here:

https://www.aspeninstitute.org/blog-posts/the-internet-after-covid-19-will-we-mind-the-gaps/

How to win the streaming wars

This week in Harvard Business Review, I have a long analysis of the so-called “streaming wars” that are disrupting the media industries. Incumbent producers and distributors, tech companies, and consumers themselves are all creating vast amounts of new content, experimenting with a wide variety of ways to distribute and monetize it.

From Disney+ to YouTube, from Peacock to Snap Chat, from DirectTV Now to Instagram, it’s an abundant if confusing time for consumers!

Who will win, or at least last long enough to make a profit? The article suggests, based on extensive research, that different age groups are gravitating towards different models for producing, consuming, and paying for video content. Would-be winners of the streaming wars would do well to understand the characteristics of each, so much the better for balancing offerings so as to appeal to each.

The risks here are enormous. Give away too much to younger audiences, and risk cannibalizing existing bundled PayTV subscriptions that pay for the innovation. Offer a one-size-fits-all service that compromises too much, and you muddle the message.

One thing is for sure: the platinum age of low-cost or even free content can’t last forever, or even much longer. A reckoning is coming, sooner rather than later.

As with all industry disruptions, the Big Bang is followed by the Big Crunch.

See “For Streaming Services, Navigating Generational Differences is Key.”