Tales of the Sausage Factory

Quick Note Re: Century/Embarq

For those who get notice of my blog but not Greg Rose’s Econoklastic, and who are interested in the Century/Embarq merger (a significant merger for rural folks), I want to direct your attention to this post about the accelerated schedule in Oregon.

Stay tuned. . . .

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Econoklastic

The Embarq/CenturyTel Merger Is Moving Fast in Oregon

The Embarq/CenturyTel merger is not just pending FCC approval. The transaction, which affects more than eight million access lines in 33 states, must be approved by regulatory agencies in several states.

Washington and Oregon are pivotal in this, partly because of the extensive rural coverage CenturyTel has in both states, and the merger raises substantive issues about industry consolidation and quality of rural service. Were the Washington or Oregon Public Utility Commission to deny the merger, it would likely kill the deal. It is for this reason that Embarq and CenturyTel tried to avoid having the Oregon PUC rule on the merger until a decision by the Oregon Attorney General forced them to do so.

Embarq and CenturyTel tried to fly under the radar, quietly filing their petition on January 1, 2009 with the Oregon PUC (note that the actual petition doesn’t start until page 218 of the .pdf; the rest is data pro forma required by the PUC — got to love state PUCs for having data requirements for corporate petitioners that the FCC never thought about having). There was no public notice until Administrative Law Judge Allan J. Arlow issued a Notice of Prehearing Conference on the PUC website today. The conference will take place on Friday, March 6, 2009 at 1:30 p.m. at the PUC in Salem. This conference “will be to identify parties and interested persons, establish a service list with addresses and telephone numbers, identify issues, and set a procedural schedule.” It is possible to be conference-called into this conference from out-of-state. Call the number on the Notice to arrange it.

What is extremely important is that this proceeding is moving forward very quickly. Parties which have filed as intervenors in other states, including public interest groups, have apparently not taken notice of this fact, as evidenced by the lack of filers in the relevant docket, UM-1416. It is possible to file as an intervenor or interested party electronically. Essentially, if there are few intervenors, it is likelier that public hearings will not take place.

There is a real chance to get serious conditions imposed on this merger if people move fast.

Posted in Econoklastic, General | Tagged , | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

A minor administrative detail . . .

As I announced last December, I am no longer with Media Access Project. For the present, I am doing a spot of consulting through an LLC I formed with my brother, Strength to Strength Develop-Ed, LLC (or just STS LLC).

I mention this because yesterday I entered a notice of appearance on behalf of Herring Broadcasting, Inc., DBA WealthTV to assist them in their ongoing carriage discrimination complaint against Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Bright House. So, lest anyone suffer any confusion, I want to make clear this is just me on my own and not anything having to do with Media Access Project or its clients. Also, for anyone who sees me blog on the carriage complaint issues or — I suppose — on other cable matters, and you disagree, feel free to disregard my arguments for entirely new reasons than you did previously.

In other news, in addition to the book I am writing for IG Publishing, I have a nearly completed manuscript based on the last five years of Tales of the Sausage Factory. Anyone with suggestions on who might be interested in publishing such a thing should drop me a line. And, in keeping with the trends of the time, anyone interested can follow me on Twitter or on Facebook.

Stay tuned . . . .

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Decline of the Chattering Class and the Rise of the Discussion Class.

You’d never know Barack Obama has an approval rating in the mid-60s. Higher if you poll among Ds and Is and exclude Rs.

I say this because there appears to be no lack of people who are either pundits themselves, or can command the attention of the media, with all manner of advice on how Obama should be talking or behaving (substance appears to be utterly irrelevant). The latest is Bill Clinton, who thinks Obama needs to “sound more hopeful.” I refer to this group of talking heads who with the rise of the cable news networks and the 24 hour news cycle have enjoyed a lengthy run as opinion leaders as the “Chattering Class.” To fill the time — and cut back on actual news reporting, which costs money — the talk radio folks, the cable news shows, and now even the newspapers have created a class of pundits, experts, and analysts who exist for the sole purpose of supplying chatter to fill up the space. Indeed, I am always amused at the criticism that the rise of the blogs means the death of news because the hardcore news folks switched from mostly news to mostly chatter some time ago.

For years, the Chattering Class has controlled and framed debates around policy for most Americans. And, as one might expect, chattering about style and insider games takes precedence over actual substance. Not only is it cheaper and easier, as it requires no expertise, it is self-re-enforcing. This has corresponded, not coincidentally in my opinion, with the general disinterest by an increasing number of Americans in politics and public policy.

But what the Chattering Class talk about and how they frame winners and losers has become so disconnected from the reality people experience that folks have begun to notice. Not merely those “whacky left-wing totally non-mainstream” bloggers at TPM and elsewhere. Frank Rich observed in an opinion piece in last Sunday’s NYT that the Washington press corp has degenerated into the equivalent of a high school clique obsessed with their petty gossip and insular rules that define who is in and who is out.

This is why Bill Clinton, a man who in his prime ranked as one of the most gifted political campaigners to grace the national stage,feels the urge to give some “helpful advice” to the man who not only won the election, but is still clocking in with approval ratings that bespeak of enormous popularity. It is why the news continues to focus on things like whether the stimulus is actually a “loss” and is only gradually, and reluctantly, turning to the question of its anticipated impact. And it is why the Chattering Class is, after unquestionable dominance of public opinion for nearly 20 years, starting to lose it’s ability to frame the issues.

More below . . . .

Read More »

Posted in How Democracy Works, Or Doesn't, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Dave Sez: “It's raining, and I can't watch Charlie Brown in HD.”

Some of you may remember my friend “Dave” who tried to get the $10 DSL deal from AT&T in ’07 when he moved to Sacremento. As I noted at the time, Dave does not get cable TV “on the grounds that 99% of the programming ‘sucks.’” Being a smart and technologically savvy fellow, as well as keeping up on all things media and telecom by reading this blog, Dave went and got his NTIA coupon and bought a converter box and did everything like a technologically savvy consumer should.

Did this bring Dave the wonders of digital television? Sadly, no. But let him tell you in his own words below . . . .

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Posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Riddle

Here’s a riddle I just made up:

Q:

What’s the difference between Capital One and the mafia?

Read More »

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

Inventing the Future

What I did with Tea Time

Guy Steele is a sweet guy who doesn’t give folks a hard time. But I have heard him several times lament that many computer science conferences are filled with variations on the same paper, which he lampoons as, “How I cataloged my CD collection with Lisp.” (I think he started saying this back when they were called record collections. I haven’t seen him in years and I suppose the routine now refers to MP3s.)

I’ve just been wrestling with a problem, and I’m so charmed with the Tea Time solution that I’m willing to sound like a college student that just learned how to do something mundane with his new profound toy. Call me a hack.

Read More »

Posted in Inventing the Future, metaphysics | Tagged , , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Update: Apology to Craig Settles

I owe Craig Settles an apology for my snarky aside in my piece on what the broadband stimulus does. Craig has written his own rebuttal to the NY Times piece, in which he explains that the reporter lifted a single quote from a 30 minute interview out of context. In private correspondence (as well as in a comment on the original post), he has shown himself an advocate for rural broadband and certainly not a tool of industry. He also gets high ratings from Jim Baller, one of the real heroes of munibroadband and broadband policy generally.

I’ve amended the original post to take out any reference to Craig and the out-of-context quote.

Stay tuned . . .

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My Thoughts Exactly

Public Service Announcement for Public Knowledge

The great public interest advocacy group Public Knowledge (about which Harold might tell us more, if he feels like it), has issued an alert about efforts by lobbyists of the Hollywood and corporate-state varieties to insert nasty, scary language about “copyright filtering” into the stimulus bill.

I used the Public Knowledge website to register my objection. Here’s the version of the letter I sent to Senator Reid and Congressman Waxman:

Dear Representative/Senator,

It is my understanding that during the conference committee on the stimulus bill, your office may be asked to change the provision that deals with public grants to spur broadband deployment to allow for copyright filtering. This may be proposed as a “noncontroversial” change that would allow Internet Service Providers to inspect its subscribers’ Internet connections to filter out copyright infringement, under the guise of “network management.” Copyright filtering is outside of the capabilities of network management, would be a massive invasion of privacy and would prohibit my lawful use of copyrighted works — for purposes of education, criticism, and commentary.

Copyright filtering is very controversial and I urge you to oppose such changes to the stimulus.

As someone who depends on free downloads of my own copyrighted works for marketing and publicity, I consider copyright filtering not only unconstitutional, unAmerican, but also a threat to my livelihood. Please resist the temptation to go down this corporate-statist road. Nothing good will come of it.

Sincerely,

John Sundman

Please click on the link above and do the right thing.

Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", My Thoughts Exactly, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Understanding What The Broadband Stimulus Does, and What It Doesn't Try To do.

Not unsurprisingly, we have considerable debate on the merits of the broadband stimulus package, even leaving aside the network neutrality provisions. They range from this NYT article suggesting that building out in rural is a waste and won’t create jobs to Yochai Benkler’s more optimistic piece to my own previous enthusiastic support (here and here). Along the way, we find plenty of folks with a “yes, but –” because it does not address urban builds or competition or network neutrality or other issues in a way they consider satisfactory, and this weakness, from their perspective, makes the whole bill a worthless boondoggle and a multi-billion gift to the incumbents to boot.

I find the claims of those pushing tax credits or opposing the network neutrality conditions that grants will not create any jobs or result in any new broadband uptake, and that conditions on grants will prevent anyone from building these systems, simply not credible. I can only conclude those pushing this line either don’t get outside Washington DC and New York City much or have their own agendas. Otherwise, they should check out my friend Wally Bowen at MAIN and how he and projects like him are creating jobs for network operators and bringing economic opportunity for their communities. But even setting aside such extremes, it should come as no surprise that we see a variety of opinions on what the broadband stimulus does or should do because:

1) We have a set of complex problems;

2) Everyone has a different perspective on the nature of the problem(s).

This makes assessing the cost/benefit difficult, and makes getting the prospect of any consensus of opinion phenomenally unlikely. What constitutes proof for me that this bill (even after the Senate changes) looks to do a lot of good and is therefore worth the cost won’t persuade others who disagree with me on the fundamental nature of what we need to fix.

In the hope of persuading folks, however, I lay out my arguments below on why I think the broadband stimulus is well designed to handle one piece of the very difficult puzzle of deploying a ubiquitous nationwide broadband system that all citizens will use so they can partake of the rich opportunity for civic engagement, economic development, educational opportunities, and new services such as telemedicine (even if they don’t realize they need this yet). Along the way, the stimulus bill gives another nudge (but hardly solves) the question of how to keep the internet open to innovation and “as diverse as human thought.”

Read More »

Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments (Comments closed)
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