Unsurprisingly, a lot of folks at David Isenberg’s excellent Freedom 2 Connect Conference this past week had a lot of attention focused on the stimulus. Most of the discussion has centered around NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) Rather than around the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Services (RUS) Program. After all, BTOP has more money ($4.7 bn to RUS’s $2.5 bn) more potentially eligible grantees, and more terms that will need definition.
But the $2.5 Bn for rural broadband is certainly nothing to sneeze at, and because of its more specific focus (rural infrastructure build rather than broader digital inclusion) and narrower set of eligible applicants, it may have greater opportunity to do some very clever things to maximize the impact of its spending. On the one hand, $2.5 Bn is more money than we have ever seen committed by the federal government to building rural broadband access infrastructure. OTOH, it is a pitifully small amount when compared to what most folks think it will take to bring meaningful broadband to rural America. Ideally, therefore, every dollar spent should stimulate more spending in this area.
Enter Geoff Daily at App-Rising, who writes this intriguing piece on how to leverage the wackiness of the financial system to our advantage (for a change). Unlike NTIA, which gives only grants, RUS can give loans and loan guarantees as well as grants. in fact, RUS has traditionally given loans and loan guarantees rather than grants. Geoff thinks this provides a way to turn the RUS $2.5 Bn into $25 bn in actual spending on rural broadband infrastructure. Unfortunately, it runs into a Dilbert-esque paradox. This is such an efficient and effective way for the government to use the money RUS is afraid that Congresscritters and pundits eager to declare the stimulus a failure will point to RUS’ “unspent” loan guarantees as a sign of waste and a failure to “spend” the money.
Fortunately, I think RUS can set up the program in a way that minimizes this risk.
More below . . .
The Obama Administration has nominated Larry Strickling for the post of Administrator of the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA). While long anticipated, the nomination was delayed until Commerce actually had a Secretary — it being polite to give the person running the Department at least the opportunity for input into who his assistant secretaries will be. It also looks like, contrary to my analysis last week, that Genachowski may come on board as soon as late April/Early May when Congress comes back from recess rather than after the DTV transition in June, and that Adelstein will simultaneously move to RUS. This would mean that the Obama administration would have their primary media/telecom team on board within the first 100 days, with the balance of the FCC waiting for the Republicans to come to some sort of consensus on whom to recommend for the second Republican slot.
More below . . .
As I’ve observed before, the IP Mafia have absolutely the worst judgment imaginable when it comes to their agenda. Now, the people who tried to kill the VCR, have just about killed internet radio, and who have sued dead people and sick children, have hit on another winning plan — using ISPs as enforcers.
Once upon a time and long ago, ISPs understood why it was important to be a common carrier and have no liability for this. That was why Congress included Section 230 and the “Good Samaritan” provision in the 1996 Telecom Act. It boils down to “when you act like a dumb pipe and just pass stuff from one place to another, we will not hold you liable for what happens.” For the same reason (as Bob Cannon explains over here on Cybertelecom), Congress generally immunized ISPs and created the whole “notice and take down” scheme in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.
But all that was before our ISP industry boiled down to a handful of companies that were also either big content producers or video distributors dependent on the good will of big content producers. Suddenly, from the perspective of the IP Mafia, a whole new world of possible backroom dealings opened up. A world in which a few companies could make policies that would cover nearly the entire high-speed access market, and where they either shared common interest with the IP Mafia or could be “persuaded” to do so by threatening to withhold needed video content.
And so, the MPAA and RIAA walked right into my cunning trap, the fools! Alas, turns out Comcast and AT&T were too clever for me.
More below . . . .
“When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” When you are a doctor, it is all about you.
According to Dr. David Kibbe, spokescritter for the American Assoc. of Family Physicians, the whole point of switching to electronic medical records is: “for doctors’ offices and hospitals to be able to easily share patient information, something the vast majority can’t do today. That would cut down on mistaken and unnecessary procedures and give doctors faster access to more accurate information about patients’ medical histories and drug regimens.”
But there are, in fact many other advantages to electronic medical records. One, for example, is to facilitate patient choice of doctor or specialist by making it easy for the patient to access, or provide access, to all medical records in one place. Right now, my ability to switch from my current practitioner to another practitioner is dependent on my collecting my medical info and moving it to my preferred doctor. The law requires my current Doctor to allow this, but it does not require them to make it easy for me.
Here’s an exercise in spiritual development and self control for yz.
Step one: Watch the movie Stolen Childhoods, from Galen Films, about child (i.e. slave) labor around the world. If you can’t watch the film you can just look at some still photos from it.
Step two: Watch the movie Rescuing Emmanuel (also from Galen Films) about the world’s one hundred million “street children”. (See stills & trailer at the site.)
Step three: Read The Big Takeover in Rolling Stone, about the (Bush/Obama facilitated) complete handover of wealth and power in the USA to the plutocrats.
Step four: Practice trying to not go insane with impotent rage.
If you dont’ burst an artery or go mad, you may reach some kind of satori. (I don’t know, myself. I’m still kind of dealing with the unenlightened insane fury.)
Below the fold: Ragtime guitarist, genius songwriter, zen master the (late) Reverend Gary Davis (whom I once saw perform in a tiny chapel just a few months before he died, thank you Jesus) lays out in song our predicament.
One of my favorite conferences is Dave Isenberg’s Freedom 2 Connect. On a purely selfish level, F2C is within walking distance of my house at the extremely cool AFI Silver Theater. But more importantly, F2C brings many, many cool and knowledgeable people to discuss real important stuff of interest to pretty much anyone who reads this blog.
This year, I will actually be on the program to discuss the broadband stimulus and what it means from a policy perspective. If that were not enough (and, let’s face it, it isn’t), there will also be a keynote by NYT Columnist Tom Friedman, lots of cool panels by interesting people (I leave it to you to follow the link lest I offend someone by missing them) and lots of very cool and informative hallway conversation.
Sadly, because the conference is held one week early, we will miss Sea Chanty night at the nearby Royal Mile Pub.
Register before Friday and get $200 off the door price.
Stay tuned . . .
I find myself in complete agreement with the wireless industry on supporting The Radio Spectrum Inventory Act. This Bill, sponsored by John Kerry (D-MA), Chair of The Subcommittee on Communications of the Senate commerce Committee, and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), requires NTIA and the FCC to account for every MHz of spectrum between 300 MHz and 3.5 GHz within 180 days of the bill’s passage. You can see Kerry’s statement here, and Snowe’s statement in here.
“Same bed, different dreams” was the title of a book by David Lampton on Sino-US relations, and comes from a Chinese expression describing people whose lives are fundamentally intertwined but who do not fundamentally communicate with each other. That pretty much sums up supporters of more licensed spectrum and supporters of more unlicensed spectrum, both of whom very much back this bill. Kerry caught this duality nicely by saluting both the 700 MHz auction and the opening of the broadcast white spaces as demonstrating the value of spectrum access and the need for the inventory.
A bit more on this below . . .
In a not entirely unexpected move, FCC Commissioner Jonathon Adelstein will shift over to the RUS program. One would be hard put to think of anyone better qualified to oversee spending to stimulate rural broadband deployment (granted, as regular readers know, I am huge fan of Adelstein’s and hardly impartial). Adelstein comes from a rural state (South Dakota) and has long been a champion of rural issues — particularly broadband and wireless deployment — at the FCC. Overseeing a program to spend $2.5B explicitly on rural broadband seems tailor made for Adelstein, especially if this is just the “down payment” for making sure that we make the benefits of high-speed access available to all Americans.
When Adelstein will get a chance to shift over, however, is less clear. The FCC has dropped down to the bare minimum for a functioning quorum of three commissioners. The Administration has now officially nominated Julius Genachowski for FCC chair. In theory, the Senate could hold a hearing, confirm Genachowski, and then shift Adelstein over to RUS at any time. In practice, however, some other considerations intervene. And while a few months might not normally make much difference in the grand scheme of things, the RUS, like the NTIA, is very busy at the moment setting the ground rules for the availability of the stimulus money. No one wants to show up after the rules are already settled, especially if you have some significant experience that would give you some strong ideas on how to spend the money effectively.
Some elaboration and speculation below . . . .
Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory
Tagged adelstein, fcc, fcc commissioner, fcc commissioners, grand scheme of things, ntia, scheme of things, senate, speculation, stimulus
If we wanted a Republican, don’t you think we would have voted for one?
As Atrios says, we are so screwed.