Tales of the Sausage Factory

What’s A POTUS SOTU Shout Out On Wireless Worth?

Last night, the wonkiest corner of telecom policy experienced its 15 picoseconds of fame when President Obama invoked spectrum policy in his State of the Union (SOTU) Address. In nerdness terms, this would be like James Franco and Anne Hathaway pausing before the Best Picture Oscar to announce this year’s Nebula Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

Needless to say, I am uber-pleased to have the geekiest of Presidents acknowledge the wonkiest of my issues. But does it do any actual good? I explore this below . . . .

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Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tales of the Sausage Factory

What the DoJ Documents Tell Us About the Comcast/NBCU Merger

In all the hoo ha about the Comcast/NBCU Merger, few folks troubled to read the Department of Justice Competitive Impact StatementComplaint, andConsent Decree. That’s rather unfortunate, as these documents sets forth a straightforward case under the antitrust laws for program access conditions for online competitors and for network neutrality. Here’s the short version:  Comcast pre-merger makes almost 30 times more money from providing cable service than from programming revenues. Even adding all of NBCU’s revenue, Comcast will still make more than twice as much from selling cable service ($34 billion) as from programming ($16.9 billion). Anyone who can do basic arithmetic would therefore conclude that yes, Comcast’s incentive to protect its cable business from erosion by online distributors (or even from traditional rivals) outweighs the potential gain from increasing programming distribution. As an added bonus, for those ideologically committed to believing otherwise, turns out Comcast’s own documents agree with the simple arithmetic and not the fun theoretical models their experts submitted. Which is why (among other reasons) DoJ continued oversight is not merely something extra. It really matters.

Lets break this out some below …

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Posted in Cable, Life In The Sausage Factory, Media Ownership, Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Thoughts Exactly

Pioneering Fantasy Author Brian Rathbone talks with Wetmachine about the Future of Publishing

I met Brian Rathbone, author of the World of Godsland fantasy series,  on Twitter. I posted something relating to self-publishing, he answered, and pretty soon we were exchanging emails. I found that although I had learned a lot in more than ten years of self-publishing, there were lots of new trends that I had kind of missed. One of them being Twitter itself, which I was not making very good use of, and another being ebook publishing & distributing (when I met Brian, I had about 250 followers on twitter and he had 15,000. I had given away tens of thousands of free ebooks but sold only a few dozens of them). It was Brian who turned me onto Smashwords, which I now use to distribute my Acts of the Apostles to half a dozen ebook retailers, including Apple and Barnes & Noble. (See my interview with Smashwords founder Mark Coker here).

Brian is a very creative user of social media, and also of “podiobooks” — self-recorded audiobooks (which he explains below). He’s not only a good writer and creative self-publisher, he’s also an extremely nice fellow. I encourage you to check out his interview below the fold, and by all means, buy one of his books!

Brian joins the roster of luminaries interviewed here on Wetmachine about the future of publishing that includes Smashwords’ Mark Coker, Writer’s Digest honcho emeritus Jane Friedman, book designer extraordinaire Joel Friedlander, and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Geraldine Brooks.

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Posted in Memology, My Thoughts Exactly, Software, Writing | 1 Comment

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Three Potential Black Swans for Telecom 2011

So with 2010 finished and 2011 now thoroughly under way, it’s time to play Prognosticate Me! Mind you, anyone can predict “spectrum will remain a focus” and “USF reform will loom large.” The fun lies in trying to pick the surprises. So I have selected 3 potential “black swans” for 2011. The term comes from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book about the high impact of low probability events.

I’ve selected three highly unlikely events that could have huge impact in 2011. First, the FCC could get serious about making online video accessible to virtual MVPDs (“MVPD”=multichannel video programming distributor, which is the fancy way to say any pay TV provider like cable or satellite) and new technologies. Normally betting on the FCC to play anything other than King Log while the incumbents play King Stork is a long-shot, unless the FCC actually has to act. Here, the need to renew the program access rules means the FCC will need to look at the state of the video market, and creates a forum for these issues.

Second, I’m betting that the FCC will continue to look at the underlying issues in the Comcast/L3 interconnection dispute long after the Comcast merger gets done, possibly rolling the issues raised here with the never ending proceeding on special access reform. Why would the FCC look into these issues when the FCC hates this sort of controversial stuff and has never wanted to look at, let alone regulate, internet backbone traffic? Because the there is (literally) too much riding on this. Comcast/L3 is much more a symptom of fundamental change in the economics of internet transport than about any two actors, and the pressure for the FCC to at least know what’s going on and figure out how it impacts the economics of Internet backbone transport — and therefore by extension the economics of all things Internet — is going to be very difficult for the agency to ignore.

Finally, I list my favorite potential black swan, LightSquared. Odds are against them for a variety of reasons, from possible financial problems to resistance from incumbent giants AT&T and Verizon. But the system, now that it has cleared a possible show-stopping satellite malfunction, has the potential to totally revolutionize the underlying economics of wireless backhaul and wireless services by providing really cheap purely wholesale LTE service. On the downside, it may also destructively interfere with GPS systems, which could be kind of a problem according to this Motorola filing with the FCC. Either way, it looks potentially pretty disruptive.

More below . . .

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Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Leave a comment

My Thoughts Exactly

You’re Right, Bruce Sterling: I *am* the future of printed fiction. Let’s discuss at SXSW!

A few months ago I blogged about my ten-or-so year long [career|hobby| pipe-dream|unhealthy obsession] as an itinerant peddler of my self-published nanopunky cyberpunky biopunky novel and novellas. That post was called Traveling Self-Publishing Geek Novelist Blues: the Defcon Variations.

A few weeks after I had posted this bit, the cyberpunk celebrity/novelist Bruce Sterling picked up on it, writing in an entry about me in his beyond the beyond blog entitled “The Future of Printed Fiction“. (Actually he didn’t write a blog entry about me — he copy/pasted my Wetmachine post and inserted into it a few oracular comments of his own.)

It’s all about being a make-do gypsy at the fringes of the web conference scene,” Sterling said in his prefatory remarks. “Gothic High-Tech, Favela Chic”.

I’ve been pondering that pronouncement (and others like it that he sprinkled through post by way of annotation) for a few months now (his post is dated October 14, 2010). Below the fold, I make an attempt at parsing them. I do detect a general tone of condescension in Sterling’s comments. Which, y’know, who cares. And furthermore I’m not even sure about that, that his comments are condescending. It seems like he’s making fun of me, but maybe he’s doing straight reporting or maybe he’s free-associating/scat-singing, like a jazz musician or person with Tourettes; I can’t really tell and anyway I’m not well-placed to judge, inasmuch as the subject is my life’s work. Mostly I’m grateful that Sterling blogged about me at all, because he has legions of fans & I got a nice jolt of web traffic and a mini-spike in book sales after he anointed me The Future of Printed Fiction. So thanks, Bruce.

In related news, both Sterling and I are slated to be in Austin, Texas next March for SXSW, the mega indie artist hipster conclave, at which event he will be giving a keynote talk to the multitudes and I’ll be on a panel (presumably before a much smaller and less adoring audience than Sterling’s) entitled “The Self-Publishing Novelist: Report from the Trenches

Since Bruce & I will both be at SXSW, maybe I’ll get a chance to chat with him & ask him what his comments meant. Or, maybe, just maybe, when I get to SXSW & plop myself down in a chair to listen to his opening address I’ll discover that I’m the subject of his keynote talk, which will be about nothing other than, yes THE FUTURE OF PRINTED FICTION & how I, Sundman is it! And I will find myself thereby catapulted into cyberbionanonovelist superstardom, right alongside Bruce Himself and William Gibson and what’s his face, who wrote Cryptonomicon and is now working some newfangled space-age post-fiction with my friend Nicki Galland and that other guy who wrote the book about little nanomachines taking over your mind — no, not Acts of the Apostles , the other one. Probably not, I realize that. But if you’re reading this, Bruce, and would like to join me for a cuppa whatever, please do  have your people call my people.

While I do confess to a bit of bewilderment about what Sterling is actually saying about me in his post, I think the gist is that printed (fiction) books are rapidly becoming “collector” artifacts for niche and rapidly shrinking communities of readers, like classic 35MM film cameras (Pentax, Minolta, Leica, Hasselblad. . .) that once commanded premiums in specialty stores and now go for a few bucks at flea markets.

Who knows, he may be right about that.

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Posted in Memology, My Thoughts Exactly, Software, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments
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