Tales of the Sausage Factory

Public Knowledge And the IP3 Awards

Once again, Public Knowledge is calling for nominations for its IP3 Awards. These awards honor people who have made valuable contributions in the fields of intellectual property, information policy, and internet protocol. Nominations must get in by September 14. Send nominations to IP3nominees@publicknowledge.org.

To quote from the PK announcement:

These are individuals who over the past year (or over the course of their careers) have advanced the public interest regarding one of the three kinds of “IP.” While these increasingly overlapping policy arenas pose important challenges for us, they also create important opportunities for creative individuals in each of the three underlying fields to advance the public interest.

Normally, this is where I would insert a rather broad hint that the labor of yr hmbl obdnt blogger and others in the realm of open spectrum would make me an excellent candidate for nomination. Fortunately, you are spared this outrageous and self-serving spectacle by the fact that I am actually judging the nominations this year. Accordingly, nary a word of encouragement that might suggest bias on my part shall pass my lips or make it to this public page.

Instead, I’ll just urge everyone to send nominations in by September 14. Remember, send your nominations to IP3nominees@publicknowledge.org.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

How Robert and Krys Helped Destroy the Nazi Monster

Here’s a couple of quick reviews, part of a sparsely-populated ongoing series of reviews of self-published books.

Both books under review are short memoirs of the Second World War, published in the last few years. I recommend them for very different reasons. And although each has its faults and they both clearly would have benefitted from the attentions of professional editors, to me they embody everything that’s cool about self-publishing (about which more below).

Whales of WWII, by Robert Jagers, tells of the author’s experiences as signalman on LST 351, a “Landing Ship, Tank”, during the Second World War. Starting with his enlistment at age 19 in 1942, the book takes us through boot camp, crossing the Atlantic in a slow convoy harried by German submarines, to the invasions of Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and Normandy, to London during the buzz-bombs and V2 rocket attacks, until demobilization in the States.

Krystyna, A Chronicle of Life and War, by Krystyna Maria Sokolowska Post, tells the story of the author’s growing up in Poland during the pre-war years in a complicated but in many ways charming family, her coming of age on the eve of the German invasion, and what happened to her when the Nazis came. It’s an astonishing tale, well told, full of innocence, villainy, tragedy, courage, evil, fate, and, ultimately, triumph, about how a young girl whose head was filled with little more than thoughts of boys, boys, boys and American movie stars became transformed, over six harrowing years, into a soldier of the resistance–adept dressing at wounds in a field hospital during the (1944) battle of Warsaw or keeping an eye out for a pregnant comrade-in-arms in a POW camp– until her ultimate liberation by, you guessed it, a handsome American GI.

Read More »

Posted in My Thoughts Exactly, Writing | Tagged | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Assessing the 700 MHz Order Part IV: Lingering Doubts and Details

The Wireless Bureau has released its Public Notice (“PN”) for the 700 MHz auction. In addition to setting the date for the start of the auction as January 16, 2008, the PN also addresses a bunch of questions left over by the Order. The biggest of these are: (a) Setting rules for package bidding; and (b) setting reserve prices on a “per block” (rather than “per license” basis) for the auction.

What does that mean? Well, the Commission in the Order decided to protect itself politically from accusations that it had set the rules too aggressively and therefore killed the auction. The Commission therefore used its authority to create “reserve prices,” or minimum prices that bidders must meet before the Commission will award the licenses. The Commission has used reserve prices before, but generally on a license by license basis not on a “block by block” basis. Nor has the Commission ever guaranteed a reauction if a block of licenses fails to meet a set reserve price.

“Package bidding,” as discussed in previous posts, means allowing people to bid on a set “package” of licenses rather than requiring a bidder to bid on each license individually. This encourages people to bid because it means I won’t get stuck with licenses I don’t want if I fail to win one or two critical licenses that make it worthwhile (this is called the “exposure” problem). So if I only want the C Block licenses if I can get national coverage, I will still participate in the auction because I know if I lose any C Block licenses, I won’t get stuck paying bilions for the licenses I did win but now no longer want.

The use of this combination of factors, along with the failure of the Commission to adopt an “either/or” rule that would require a bidder to go after either the D Block license or C Block licenses, makes me uneasy. I can see scenarios where a bidder gets the D Block cheap, then chooses to enhance coverage by bidding aggressively for one or two C Block licenses. That’s not necessarily bad, except it may prevent the creation of a second national player because it deprives the second national player of licenses it needs to complete its package (I’m not postulating deliberate blocking, you understand, I’m looking at the potential interplay of circumstances frustrating the likelihood of new national entrants). OTOH, the ability to bid on both D block and C Block may encourage bidders to be more aggressive in both blocks, and may create a larger pool of bidders for these blocks over all.

But what really worries me is the reserve prices. Why? See below . . . .

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Posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Watchacallem

What is the right name for the American political group that finds the constitution to be outdated for today’s world, political correctness an object of derision, civil liberties to be dangerous, and seeks to abandon the ideas of the national founding fathers (as well as I imagine the majority of our actual parents and grandparents).

The media refers to such folks as “conservatives”, but I can’t find any sense in which that is true.

Some of this group are called “Neo-Conservatives.” This deliciously oxymoronic term specifically refers to the students of Leo Straus, who believed that the intellectual elite needed to deceive the masses through a culture of fear in order to perpetuate … well, to perpetuate something. It’s never been clear to me what. Anyway, it’s not right to assume that every Bushie is a Neo-Con, or even a student of philosophy. And besides, what do you call the deceived masses that support them? Are they also Neo-Cons?

“Republican” is not right either. I don’t think that every one of today’s Republicans subscribes to this radicalism, and the ideas are certainly not true of historical leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, or Alexander Hamilton.

“Right wing” may be relatively true, but it isn’t very specific. Same for “Radical”.

Ironically, the ideas of the early 1800′s “Radical Republican” movement in Britain might be described today as… “liberal.”

Current usage of the term “idiot” seems apt. But again, historically this term was used to refer to people whose mental development was inhibited or disordered from the norm. My experience is that many such folks are happy, caring, sensitive, sincere, and eager to be helpful. None of this seems to apply.

Seriously, what do we call the putsch against the last 300 years of liberal ideas such as the rule of law and protection of the individual?

Posted in Inventing the Future, Memology | Tagged , | Comments closed

My Thoughts Exactly

This Monkey's Gone To Heaven

News Item:

Astronomers have stumbled upon a tremendous hole in the universe. That’s got them scratching their heads about what’s just not there. The cosmic blank spot has no stray stars, no galaxies, no sucking black holes, not even mysterious dark matter. It is 1 billion light years across of nothing.

Gosh, if these so-called experts had only listened to the Pixies there would be no mystery. It was all explained in the song Monkey Gone to Heaven:

The creature in the sky
got sucked in a hole
now there’s a hole in the sky
and the ground’s not cold
and if the ground’s not cold
everything is gonna burn
we’ll all take turns
I’ll get mine, too
This monkey’s gone to heaven
Rock me, Joe!

By the way, I have not forgotten that I owe you the story of how I saved a damsel in distress in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport by a simple invocation of that same prophetic song, but that remains a story for another day.

Meanwhile, full lyrics below to the fold for all who’s interested;

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Posted in I Fear These Things, My Thoughts Exactly | Tagged | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Assessing the 700 MHz Order Part III — Anonymous Bidding Alone Makes This a Big Win

Regular readers will know that, as far as I am concerned, getting anonymous bidding automatically makes this Order a big win. I pushed hard on this in the lead up to the AWS auction a year and a half ago. Sadly, I lost. As a result, the cable companies were able to block the DBS guys from winning any new licenses, and the incumbents generally succeeded in keeping out any potentially disruptive new entrants (the cable guys having made it clear they would not compete with the cellular guys).

Fortunately, Greg Rose spent a year crunching the data and demonstrated that if the incumbents hadn’t rigged the auction, it sure looked like it from a statistical analysis/game theory perspective. With this “smoking gun” evidence in hand (utterly dickish footnotes by the Wireless Bureau staff to the contrary), we were able to persuade the Commission that adopting anonymous bidding rules would make the auction more competitive, give new entrants a better chance, and as a result probably increase the auction revenue overall.

So, having lost this last time around, I consider it a real coup to get it now. As both Google and Frontline supported anonymous bidding as necessary to encourage new entrants, I am hopeful that we may still get our “third pipe” provider even without wholesale open access.

Analysis below . . . .

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Posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Cred on “The Street”

Yesterday Lockheed announced that it had bought Croquet simulations learning company 3D Solve. (3D Solve’s founding CTO is David Smith, who is Chief System Architect for the Croquet Consortium, and CTO of Qwaq. Consortium point-man Julian Lombardi is an advisor.) Being Lockheed, the news was carried by financial folks like CNN and Merrill Lynch, but I’m most excited by the release carried by Gamasutra and Serious Games Source, which is all about Croquet.

This comes on the heels this week of Cisco blogs about Qwaq.

I’m old enough to know that all of this should be taken with a grain of salt. But it certainly ain’t bad news, and it gives a lot of credibility to the Croquet platform. I hope that Croquet folks around the world are able to make good use of this news in setting up their own projects.


This week I had posted links to some cool new Croquet project movies, but I missed this somewhat cold one from 3D Solve.

Posted in Inventing the Future, Philosophical business mumbo-jumbo | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Assessing the 700 MHz Order Part II: “C” Does Not stand For “Crap;” Why the Wireless Carterfone Condition Is A Big Win.

Few things in the last few days have generated more discussion and overall pessimism in the Order than the C Block “wireless Carterfone” or “network attachment” conditions. “A tease,” says Art Brodsky. “Crippled by loopholes,” opines Susan Crawford.

“Not so fast!” Says yr hmbl obdnt blogger. In point of fact, there is a a hell of a lot here to like in the C Block conditions. Not just for trying to get actual devices attached, but in terms of FCC precedent and broader spectrum policy. This is an “Eyes on the Prize” moment, similar to the preliminary decisions that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education. We did not win the grand prize, but we got a lot good precedent for future spectrum reform.

Further, as I explain below, I do not think the conditions the FCC imposed here are meaningless. To the contrary, I think the rules are about as aggressive as possible to draft (as I worked hard with Commissioner Adelstein and his staff to think of anything I could possibly add to them). But at the end of the day, what matters is the political will. If the next FCC (which will be the FCC that enforces this) wants to give these license conditions meaning, it has the tools to do so. If a future FCC wants to make this meaningless, then there is nothing we can do no matter how well we draft things.

And I will add that if anyone has some better ideas on what to put in as rules, they should certainly file Petitions for Reconsideration

My analysis of why the C Block conditions do matter below . . . .

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Posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

All Over But The Screaming; Assessing the 700 MHz Order: Part I — Putting This In Context

At the end of last week, the FCC released its mammoth 350 page Order on the 700 MHz Auction. As advertised, it resolves most of the major issues, but delegates some details for the Wireless Bureau to resolve so we can continue to have wonky auction fun through the fall. Because the only thing better than Fantasy Football is Fantasy Reserve Prices.

Below, and for the next several posts, I give my patented Sausage Factory long, detailed analysis. Briefly, in my usual contrarian-but-hopefully-sophisticated-and-nuanced-way, I think we did pretty well. In fact I think we totally kicked ass, took names, and got something that — over the long haul — has the potential to seriously revolutionize wireless and broadband policy in the United States.

“Wha?” I hear you cry. “I thought we lost on wholesale. I thought the Order had only wussy half measures that amounts to either a giveaway to the incumbents for crumbs or Google (depending on whom you hate more). Are you just trying to buck us up and make us feel better?”

True, we lost on wholesale and the FCC did not go as far as I would like on the “wireless Carterfone.” But, as with the debate over the AT&T/BS Conditions, we need to assess the results as part of a long-term campaign for reform rather than expecting to achieve a Glorious Revolution in a single stroke. This was our Battle of Britain (or, for those who think of us as a bunch of Socialist enemies of capitalism, our Batte of Stalingrad). We have stood before the united might of the telco, cable and wireless industries, halted the tide of “business as usual,” and extracted some key changes and precedents that we shall leverage for the next phase of the campaign to create a 21st Century information grid worthy of a democracy; an information grid that extends the benefits of modern communications to everyone and eliminates the power of gatekeepers to control what we say and what information we discover.

Which, at the end of the day, is not too shabby — especially when compared to what we expected last April. We got some pretty huge stuff — things that will revolutionize this auction not merely help us for the long term.

Using my “Red Sox scale” of success, this feels to me a lot like the 1975 World Series. Looking back as an adult, I can see that it was one of the finest moments in professional baseball, with the Sox losing by a single run in the 7th game. But at the time, it felt like a Hell of a loss, precisely because we came so close to winning it all.

So I’m not nearly as down as most of my friends in the movement. Part of that has to do with long-term view over short term. Part of that has to do with whether I believe that Martin is acting in good faith or not (again, I’m contrarian in our community by saying “good faith” for reasons I will explain). Part of it has to do with an appreciation of the FCC’s institutional dynamics including, to paraphrase Jon Stewart, the absolute dickishness of the Wireless Bureau staff.

I do see problems and issues in the Order, some of which I hope to get fixed on Recon, some of which reflect rational disagreements on the proper course and what level of risk we should take for political payoff (I’m talking about the reserve price stuff here). And, at the end of the day, we are still facing a host of unknowns that will depend on a future FCC’s willingness to enforce these conditions. But in the end, I’m feeling we at MAP earned our corn and achieved things we can be proud of (I’ll let the other members of PISC speak for themselves on that score, but I hope they feel the same way as well).

Because this is really, really long, and will probably take several days to cover, I am breaking this up into parts. Below, I provide some of the necessary institutional context for understanding the Order and why I think this counts as a big win.

More below . . . .

Read More »

Posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Muniwifi and the Minneapolis Bridge Disaster

While the telco/cable lobbying war to make muniwifi illegal has died out (as demonstrated by the most recent defeat for the telco/cable lobbyists in North Carolina), the debate on the actual merits of munibroadband lives on. And it’s a good debate to have. States, cities and local governments should consider their projects carefully. What works in St. Cloud, Florida or Philadelphia will not necessarily work elsewhere. And, with all the possible goals of a muni system (service to residents, service to muicipalities, public safety, digital inclusion, enhance local media, economic stimulus), it is a sound idea to have figured out your benchmarks for success in advance.

Unsurprisingly, those generally opposed to government providing services (particularly where such services are available or could be available from private companies) have spent much time and effort arguing that municipal broadband projects usually end as costly failures. These analysis generally use the standard economic criteria of a for-profit business. i.e., Does the network pay for itself over expected time?

That’s an important question, particularly if a government has made this a goal of buiding the network or if you are a private business looking at a public/private partnership. But governments often make investments in infrastructure or provide services on a residential or subscription basis for other reasons. Here in DC, for example, no one pretends that the City will directly make back the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to attract a professional baseball team. This cost gets justified on the grounds that it will revitalize the Anacostia waterfront area, serve as a source of civic pride, and offer additional benefits that justify the cost.

Which brings us to the performance of Minneapolis muniwifi network in the recent bridge collapse diaster. The presence of the network proved an enormous boon to public safety and the citizens of Minneapolis. Because the city had deployed the network for residential service, it was there when they needed it for public safety. That’s difficult to capture in a balance sheet, but there’s no doubt you’re damn glad to have it when you need it.

Of course, local governments can always build public safety muni networks. And many do. But multiple use networks (like the Minneapolis one) are a good way to fund such networks, make sure they get fully deployed, and make sure they stay upgraded and operational. A town reluctant to spend money on public safety communications (and many are) may feel better if the public safety network will also provide low-cost connectivity to poorer neighborhoods. Alternatively, a town might feel better about providing residential services at a possible financial loss if they look on the network as also providing critical infrastructure for emergencies.

At the end of the day, every local or state government looking at municipal broadband needs to do a careful evaluation and figure out what it wants and how it will pay for it. The business case is an important piece of that, especially if local governments promise their citizens the network will end up paying for itself with subscriber fees. But the tragedy in Minneapolis provides an important reminder that local governments have other measures of success besides turning a profit.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)
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