Tales of the Sausage Factory

Appreciation: Professor Robert B. Seidman RIP: 1920-2014

On April 3, 2014, the world lost a true giant of the public interest. Professor Robert B. Seidman, of Boston University law school died of heart attack in his home in Milton, MA at age 94. With him was his wife of more than 65 years, co-author, co-professor, and all around partner in every sense of the word, Professor Ann Seidman. You can read a far too abbreviated obituary here, see his CV here, and a list of publications here.  None of these, of course, come even vaguely close to capturing Bob’s importance in the world generally, or in my life personally.

I’ll insert this video here where Bob and Ann explain their work. I try to put some of what Bob did and what he taught me below  . . .


http://youtu.be/iTc5f8Qv-o8

 

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Transcript of Wheeler’s full Statement At FCC Meeting

Because no one else has posted it anywhere, I have transcribed below the relevant portion of Wheeler’s responses to questions at the March 31 FCC Press Conference following the meeting.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

My Insanely Long Field Guide To Understanding FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Statement On Peering.

At the press conference following the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) March 31 Open Meeting, Chairman Tom Wheeler made the following observation:

 

“Interconnection is part of the Network Compact.” Peering “is just a $3.50 word for interconnection.”

 

Wheeler followed up this statement by explaining that there was a difference between “network neutrality” and the “open internet” on one hand and “interconnection” as the ‘path to the Internet’ on the other hand. While government has a critical role in monitoring peering/interconnection to protect the values of the Network Compact, it isn’t a network neutrality issue. You can see Wheeler’s full statement here (Start at 144:45 – 147:23 has unrelated stuff in middle).

 

After the meeting, the FCC released a separate statement that they really mean it when they say that they aren’t going to do peering as part of the Net Neutrality rules. While Brendan Sasso at National Journal gets points for noticing that “the FCC could decide to enact separate regulations on the issue or force Comcast to accept new rules in order to receive permission to buy Time Warner Cable,” most folks I’ve read in the press have broadly interpreted this as indicating the FCC will not look into the Comcast/Netflix dispute or complaints by Cogent and Level 3 about large edge-providers squeezing them for higher interconnection fees.

 

Personally, I think most people are totally misreading this. Wheeler’s statements make it look more likely to me that the FCC will start looking closely at the Internet peering market, not less likely, especially as part of the Comcast/TWC deal. Indeed, Comcast’s Chief Lobbyist David Cohen, who ranks in my book as one of the absolutely smartest and most effective telecom lobbyists ever, has already started backing away from earlier statements that regulators would ignore peering issues and that he expects them to look at the Comcast/Netflix deal. (Unsurprisingly, Cohen also said he expects regulators to find no problems with the deal and called Netflix CEO Reed Hasting’s arguments that this eviscerated net neutrality “hogwash.”)

 

Below, I will rant at considerable length that (a) Wheeler is right, this is not a “network neutrality” issue, but the same goddam interconnection issue that we have struggled with for more than a hundred years in every networked industry from railroads to electricity to broadband; (b) The FCC needs to actually look at this and study it and understand how the market works before it makes any decisions on what to do; and, (c) While Wheeler is not saying in any way, shape or form he actually plans to do anything before he has real information on which to base a decision, he is signaling — for anyone actually paying attention — that he is, in fact, going to actually look at this as part of his overall transition of the agency around his “Fourth Network Revolution” and “Network Compact” ideas.

 

 

While this last would seem pretty basic and obvious, it represents a significant change in policy from the previous insistence that IP magic pixie dust obscures all things Internet and makes them invisible to the FCC. Whether I agree with what Wheeler ultimately does or not — and I have no idea what he might ultimately do here, he could decide the market is competitive and working just fine — I don’t believe Wheeler is going to go around with his eyes and ears covered blathering about the magic nature of the Internet. I think Wheeler is actually going to check under the hood and see what actually makes the damn thing tick — and Comcast is just the company to help him do it.

 

Much ranting below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Phone Number Stability And The Neustar-Telcordia Fight, Why The NANC Meeting Makes Me Nervous.

[Unrelated Wetmachine Update: We now have email alerts back. You can also follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Never miss another extremely dense, wonky telecom blog post again! We now return to our actual content.]

I confess I have become something of a nervous Nellie about telephone numbers.

 

Boring, humdrum, 10-digit numbers that sit at the base of the telephone system. Most of us never think about how they work. But we rely on them for a Hell of a lot. Contrary to popular belief, what defines the “public switched network” (PSTN) is not a particular technology or means of transmission, but the use of phone numbers in the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) (47 C.F.R. 20.3).

 

Which is why I worry about the upcoming meeting of the North American Numbering Council (NANC) on Thursday. Folks expect that the NANC will address the the current fight between Neustar and Telcordia (now owned by Erickson) to become (or remain) the Local Number Portability Administrator (LNPA) when the current contract with Neustar runs out in 2015. While no one without a financial stake in the outcome (outside a handful of wonks obsessed with phone numbers) has followed this much, the possibility that we may create a destabilizing tug of war around the maintenance of phone numbers during the IP Transition gives me serious tummy queasies when I think about it.

 

At the same time, I recognize that any delay ends up favoring the current incumbent LNPA (Neustar) and that as a pro-competition guy I would like to see Telcordia give Neustar a run for the money and not get subjected to endless delays.

 

But . . . . tummy queasies! Possible meltdown of the phone system and stuff.

 

Details below . . .

 

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General Exception

Email Updates Are Back!

So, not only do we have working RSS feeds (which is pretty surprising, since I didn’t know I fixed them… I guess I must have been sleep admin’ing again…) we also have the ability to send out email alerts for new posts!

To get Wetmachine email:

  • If you are already logged into a Wetmachine account (or you’ve logged in using Twitter, Facebook, or other popular social media sites), just go on over to your Profile page and click the Subscribe2 link (or just use this direct link). From here, you can choose which posts will be emailed to you, and what format they are in.
  • If you have an account and you’re not logged in, go here to fix that.
  • Don’t have an account? Register for one or log in using a social media account.
  • Don’t want all of this account nonsense? Just use the link in the right-hand column (or this link right here ) to just enter your email address. You’ll get alerts for all posts on Wetmachine, and you’ll just get them in plain text.
  • Is even that too invasive? Don’t trust us with your email address? Well… uh… we have the RSS feeds.

Note that we won’t try to reinstate people who used to get email updates before. Many of these addresses are probably no longer valid. Plus, we prefer to have you opt-in again rather than potentially annoying you all with unwanted mail.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Our RSS Feed Is Back!

A number of folks have asked me for awhile what happened to our RSS feed. I recognize that because we post infrequently here (damn you, life, for getting in the way of my blogging!) having an RSS feed really helps people to know when we’ve added something.

The answer is that Wetmachine is kept going on the technical side by the voluntary efforts of Gary Gray and John Sundman. Because of various problems, we needed to migrate Wetmachine awhile ago from one hosting company to another and make various other changes. As a result, the RSS plug in we were using broke. Making sure the site actually worked and stayed up and running took priority over finding a new RSS plug in, and it took Gary awhile to find a plug in that would work with the new site.

In any event, thanks to Gary’s hard work, you can now once again ensure that you will never miss another article by following the side bar on the right down to the RSS button. Please do. Also, you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter, because Lord knows you can now follow individual air molecules on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Stay tuned . . . .

 

 

 

 

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My Thoughts Exactly

Few thing are sacred here at Wetmachine, but St. Urho-Patrick’s day(s) is one of them.

Alas tis true, as my dwindling parish of Wetmachine readers well knows, all two of you, that I’ve sadly neglected my home site here at Wetmachine over the last few years. The reasons for this neglect are many and various, and mostly bullshit. So I’m not going to go into them because I’ll just confuse & piss off my own self. I do feel bad that I’ve posted here so seldom in recent years (and grateful to my fellow Wetmechanics who’ve kept the lights on & the water bill paid in my absence). But I shan’t promise to post more, although that’s my intention, inasmuch as I’ve made similar promises before and broken them, which is kind of debilitating to me, even if nobody else notices. BUT ENOUGH OF THIS NAVEL-NOODLING, WE’RE HERE TO TALK UHRO.

Now listen, I’m not going to educate y’all about blessed St. Urho; that’s why God created the Internet & its idiot bastard offspring Google (google), Microsoft (bing), and Yahoo (who cares) (and too-also its not so idiot nor illegitimate stepchild DuckDuckGo); that is, so you can look St. Urho up yourself. I’m only going point out that March 16 is, by longstanding (all the way back to the 1950′s) tradition, St. Urho’s Day, dear to Finnish-Americans everywhere, and March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, dear to Irish Americans almost everywhere (although not so much in places where people have gotten sick of all the St. Patrick’s day bullshit, another tale altogether).

Wherefore thus obviously to people like myself of Finnish-Irish heritage (with a minor in Swedish-Scottish), this name-day pairing is doubly sacred. As in, “make it a double”. Or, as I said in an earlier and somewhat more eloquent post a few years back before my brains went on vacation,

 

That special time of year, when St. Urhu’s day elides into the name-day of St. Padraic, is again upon us. Longtime readers know that here at Wetmachine we have a special place in our hearts for this great Finno-Irish-American festival–mainly on account of I started this site and I’m a Finno-Irish American, of which there ain’t too damn many offer dere, as my late Grandfather “Pop” used to say.

 

 

Wherefore let it be known that the logical Urho-Padraic menorah was lighted this year at Wetmachine. Selah.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

A Guide To The Mechanics of the Comcast/TWC Deal. Part IV: Congress, The White House And The Public.

If you read most of the reporting on the Comcast/TWC deal, you would think that Congress and the White House play a huge role. In reality, as I alluded to in the Part I intro, not so much. The political stuff tends to get over-reported in part because it’s easier (it took me about 3000 words just to explain how the antitrust and the FCC review work never mind any actual reporting), and in part because everyone assumes that Washington is a corrupt cesspit where politics invariably determine outcomes.

 

As always, while the political matters, it plays a much more complicated role in the mix. Below, I will unpack how the political pieces (including public input) play into the actual legal and merits analysis. Again, keep in mind that I’m not talking about merits here. I’m just trying to explain how the process works so people can keep track over the course of the merger review (which will last a minimum of 6 months and may well run for more than a year).

 

Political details below . . . .

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Posted in Cable, How Democracy Works, Or Doesn't, Life In The Sausage Factory, Media Ownership, Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Leave a comment

Tales of the Sausage Factory

A Guide To The Mechanics of the Comcast/TWC Deal. Part III: The Federal Communications Commission.

In Part II, I described how the Department of Justice will conduct its antitrust review of the Comcast/TWC. Here, I describe how the Federal Communications Commission will conduct its review under the Communications Act. While the FCC and the DoJ will coordinate their reviews and work together, the two agencies have very different procedures and operate under very different legal standards. (For those wondering why, you can see this article I wrote on the subject about 15 years ago.)

 

Details on FCC process below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

A Guide to The Mechanics of the Comcast/TWC Deal. Part II: Antitrust Review

In Part I, I gave a general overview of the regulatory review process for the Comcast/TWC Deal. In Part II, I describe how the antitrust review works (which, in this case, will be conducted by the Department of Justice Antitrust Division). Keep in mind I am not discussing any of the arguments on the merits. I’m just trying to give people a sense of how the process will work and where they can weigh in if they feel so inclined.

Part III will address the review by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Communications Act.  Part IV will talk about Congress, the White House and the public.

 

Antitrust process described below . . .

 

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