Tales of the Sausage Factory

Does Comcast Fear To Win Too Much?

I grant I wasn’t there, but pretty much everyone who was seems to think the D.C. Circuit oral argument in the Comcast/BitTorrent case was an utter disaster for the FCC/pro-NN forces and a total triumph for Comcast. Given my previously voiced opinion about the judicial activists on the D.C. Circuit, I can’t say this surprises me even in light of the previous precedent. Indeed, from what I have heard, the D.C. Circuit appeared breathtakingly eager to rush past the procedural issues and declare that the FCC has absolutely no jurisdiction to regulate anything an ISP ever does, ever.

So why has Comcast, which (along with its trade association) has argued that it would violate its First Amendment rights for the FCC to regulate its conduct as an ISP, posted this blog entry to explain that of course they totally support FCC regulation of broadband ISPs, under the right circumstances, etc.?

Answer: Comcast fears to win too much. For Comcast (and other broadband providers), the ideal world consists of an FCC with jurisdiction but no authority. That is to say, they want an FCC that appears to have authority to do something, but when push comes to shove is prevented from actually doing anything Comcast doesn’t like. Which is why Comcast wanted to win on procedure and, perhaps, get the court to threaten the FCC that it had no authority. In that universe (which could still come to pass), Comcast could keep Congress from giving the FCC explicit authority by saying it has jurisdiction but keep the FCC from doing anything by claiming that it lacked authority for any specific action.

But there is every indication that the D.C. Circuit will go much further, and find that the FCC has no jurisdiction to even consider regulation of ISP behavior no matter what the circumstances, because it doesn’t believe that ancillary authority exists. While that sounds like exactly what Comcast would want, it scares them silly. Because even the fear of this sort of huge loss creates a panic that could lead Congress explicitly delegating the FCC extremely clear and unambiguous authority.

More, including a shout out to all my fellow Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, below . . . .

UPDATE: According to this blog post by Washpo Reporter Cecilia Kang, I’m not the only one thinking this way. A few more choice remarks from NCTA’s Kyle McSlarrow about how the FCC’s role is to be a big ATM for his members may get even this Congress off it’s rear end.

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Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

So How's That Time Warner Bandwidth Cap Working Out?

Reposting a recent blog entry of mine from the Public Knowledge blog. As Time Warner expands out its usage cap pilot from Beaumont, TX to somewhat more populated and user-intensive communities, users are starting to notice and complain. Hopefully, with the FCC getting the ball rolling on the National Broadband Plan mandated by the broadband stimulus package, we will start to probe into the whole bandwidth cap issue a little more deeply.

More below . . . .

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Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Rarely Do I Catch The Daily Show In A Factual Error . . .

So I will crow over this silly little mistake. The normally excellent Indecision2008 Blog has misidentified Senator Ben Cardin as the Senator from Maine in this blog post. He is, in fact, the Senator from Maryland.

This is important since Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, the Senators from Maine, (a) are women, (b) are Republicans, and (c) voted in favor of the FISA “compromise,” whereas Cardin voted against it. I shall leave it as an exercise to the reader which they think is the most important difference and whether either Cardin, Collins, or Snowe should feel offended that Indecision08 got them confused. Although I do agree with the main thrust of the blog entry that Ben Cardin is not nearly as sexy as Charlize Theron no matter what state he is from or his political party.

But in any event, I do think Indecision08 should run a correction.

(I promise to do real blogging again soon, just a bit busy at the moment.)

stay tuned . . .

Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | Comments closed

My Thoughts Exactly

The Slashdot Manifesto argument and teh future of teh writer on Internets, or, I CAN HAZ UR MONEY?

Steven Poole wrote a blog entry about how the hell us poor writers are supposed to earn a living in this newfangled “information wants to be free” age, characterized by what Poole calls the “Slashdot argument”:

[the Slashdot argument] says that books, music, films, software and so on ought to be freely distributed to anyone who wants them, simply because they can be freely distributed. What is the writer or musician to do, though, if she can’t earn money from her art? Simple, says the Slashdotter: earn your money playing live (if you’re one of those musicians who plays live),4 or selling T-shirts or merchandise, or providing some other kind of “value-added” service.

You may recognize this logic as a variant, or corollary, if you will of the first line of the Toddler’s Manifesto: “if I want it, it’s mine.”

After the jump, a link to a funny cartoon!

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Posted in My Thoughts Exactly, Writing | Also tagged | 8 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

700 MHz Update: FCC Severs D Block, Refers Cyren Call Allegations To Inspector General.

The FCC can certainly move fast when it wants to — and when it has had a few weeks to get used to the idea. The FCC just released a public notice that it will “de-link” the D Block from Auction 73, and will release the names of the winners as soon as the Commission collects the payments (ten days after it issues the official notice that the auction is over and that parties now need to file “long forms” and pay up).

Also of importance, Chairman Martin has referred the question of whether Cyren Call made all manner of demands of Frontline, and did this break any rules to the Office of the Inspector General. This extremely important detail was buried in this somewhat less than stellar Washington Post article about our letter to the FCC calling for an investigation. I say “less than stellar” because, in addition to “burying the lead” big time, the reporters did not trouble themselves to contact me despite that fact that (a) I broke this story in the first place (only narrowly beating out Dow Jones’ Cory Boles); (b) I drafted the friggin’ letter. I therefore recommend this far superior article in eWeek (i.e., it mentions me and links to the relevant blog entry — a clear mark of superior journalistic skills).

A bit more analysis below . . .

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My Thoughts Exactly

John McCain & Vicki Iseman: So FCC policy *is* sexy? Who knew!

Thanks to an innuendo-laden story by the New York Times last Thursday, everybody who follows USian politics at all knows that Vicki Iseman is a quasi-hot telecom/media lobbyist who for a while eight years ago had a pretty close friendship with Senator John McCain, and that he threw some of his political weight around on behalf of some of her clients. (I tried to find a flattering photo of Ms. Iseman to grace this here blog entry, but all I could find were an elongated pic of her in an evening gown, too big for my purposes, and a horribly unflattering portrait from her company’s website. Oh well, by now you’ve either seen those photos or this story likely ain’t for you anyway.)

What few suspect, however, that this whole story was a cleverly planted plot designed to boost the google rank of Wetmachine into the stratosphere!

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Posted in infotainment, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Can users shape traffic better than ISPs? Some Lessons From The Electric Industry.

A dialog between David Weinberg and Seth Finkelstein on David’s blog raises an interesting question. Dave W argues (as do I) that a network provider is the last person who should engage in such practices, because of the inherent potentials for mischief and the possible conflicts of interest. Seth Finkelstein argues that, as a practical matter in the real world, only the ISP can effectively make a determination on traffic shaping that maximizes the use of the network for everyone, protects time sensitive applications, and prevents a “tragedy of the commons” from a handful of users absorbing all the bandwidth.

David Isenberg (in the comments and in this blog entry) makes the case that we don’t need traffic shaping, just more capacity or, in the alternative, neutral means to reduce packet flow such as throttling all traffic equally or going to metered pricing. Others (including myself) have argued that the problems of “bandwidth hogs” are exaggerated, or that users dissatisfied with the “best efforts” environment of the internet should stick with the network optimized for voice (the phone network) or the network optimized for video (cable, broadcast television) rather than “break” the internet to better accommodate these applications. Neither of these answers, however, is popular in regulatory circles. Further, it is a legitimate argument that we should allow ISPs to choose what product to offer customers. If an ISP wants to offer services optimized for VOIP by retaining the power to shape traffic, why shouldn’t it bring that service to market? This inevitably leads to a debate on market power, availability of choice, switching costs, captive customers etc., etc.

So lets shake things up with something new. I will — for the sake of argument here — accept the proposition that we “need” traffic shaping (like I “need” “scare quotes” so that people will not “quote” me out of context or argue on trivialities). But accepting the need for traffic shaping does not mean ceding all power to the broadband access provider. To the contrary, I argue that we will achieve far better results by giving subscribers the ability to shape their own traffic.

Madness you say? “Tragedy Of The Commons” and all that. Maybe, but the electric industry tells a somewhat different tale. As described in this NYT story, a fair number of folks are taking advantage of pilot projects that allow people to shape their power usage in the same way I propose allowing them to shape their Internet use. Such programs may save $70 Billion in the next few years. Why not see if they can have serious impact on the supposed exaflood of internet traffic that supposedly justifies traffic shaping? Especially when contrasted with the pur privatization model, that gave us the Enron scandal and the California black outs in 2001?

More below . . .

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Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

So What The Heck Is M2Z? And Why Do I Support It?

So recently, with all the spectrum stuff going on, I hear a lot of people asking about something called “M2Z,” usually like this: “So, what the heck is M2Z? And why should I care?”

Two very good questions. Briefly, M2Z is yet-another-plan to solve our national broadband woes through exclusive licensing. Specifically, it is about giving this one company a free, exclusive, national license for the 20 MHz of spectrum left over from the federal spectrum cleared for last summer’s AWS auction. While M2Z filed its application in May ’06, it took the FCC awhile to figure out what to do with it, since it doesn’t have any rules or pending proceedings that cover what M2Z wants. Finally, back in February ’07, the FCC issued a generic public notice of the application as required under the Communications Act and asked for piublic comment on what the heck to do about it.

Given my rather low opinion of Cyren Call’s efforts to get a free, national license, one might expect me to take a similar dim view of M2Z. Nor has M2Z helped its case much with some rather ham-handed “outreach” to the public interest community, by spamming the attendee list of the National Conference on Media Reform and creating a “Coalition for Free Broadband” website that looks all the world like an off-the-shelf Astroturf project.

Finally, Sascha Meinrath, who I look to for wisdom and advice on all matters spectrum, has written this blog entry on why he opposes the M2Z proposal.

Despite all this, I still think that M2Z deserves support. My employer Media Access Project filed a letter in support of M2Z. At the least, it deserves a good hard look before writing it off as yet another theft of spectrum via privatization.

Why? See below . . . .

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

My Thoughts Exactly

I've been spamtrapped!

I was just trying to add a comment to Harold’s blog entry, below, when the screen suddenly went a horrible blue, and a (probably illegally used, copyrightwise) image of a can of Spam(tm) appeared, along with this message:


You’ve been spamtrapped

we will not tolerate spam Als u menselijk bent en u denkt dat u onterecht wordt beschuldigd van spam activiteiten op mijn weblog, ga dan terug naar de vorige pagina. Mogelijkerwijs bevat uw commentaar een link naar een site welke ik op dit weblog weer. Ook kan het gebruik van verschillende woorden zoals casino u naar deze pagina hebben geleid.
English

If you are human and you think that you are wrongly beeing accused of trying to spam my blog, please return to the previous page by going back. You’ve been sent here because the original comment contains illegal keywords like casino or links to spamming websites. I will not tolerate these links on my weblog and as a precaution all content is filtered before submitted to the site.

What’s particularly galling this remark is the sentence, “I will not tolerate these links on my weblog:” WTF? Hey, it’s MY GODDAMN WEBLOG, YOU STUPID PIECE OF SOFTWARE! WHO THE BLEEP DO YOU THINK YOU ARE????

Anyway, over the last few weeks we have recieved some email from friends of the site to the effect that they had been prevented from making comments. I put that on my list of things to worry about at some time in the future. Now that it has happened to me & I have experienced first hand just how irritating and insulting it is, let me just say that this problem has gotten my attention for real. I cannot promise how soon we’ll get it resolved, but it will probably be sooner than if I had not been spamptrapped. In the meantime, any of you who have been impoperly spamtrapped, please accept my apology on behalf of my well-meaning but incompetent and rude spam blocker.

By the way, here’s my comment on Harold’s blog entry (below the fold):

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Posted in My Thoughts Exactly, Wetmachine site news | Also tagged , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Spontaneous Usage

bloggingfrominworld

One success metric that I’ve been shooting for is that I want a user to do something in Croquet that was not specifically intended by the authors of the space or software. It’s very cool to create something that is ideally suited for a particular usage, but it’s really something to create a meta-tool whose usage exceeds the sum of its designed parts.

This fellow Laurence apparently created his blog entry from within the Collaborative.

I had expected and hoped the first such spontaneous use to be something based on collaboration, or on usability or scalability. This was not. It was done because it was fun to do. That’s pretty cool, actually. Shows what I know…

Posted in Inventing the Future, KAT | Also tagged , , | Comments closed
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