Tales of the Sausage Factory

Incumbents Bring Tea Party Tactics To Title II Reclasification Fight.

I have never accused the incumbents of being overly subtle, especially when they feel threatened. But this new 14-page letter from the major cable and telco trade associations — as well as from the three biggest ILECs and Time Warner Cable (Comast shows unusual, perhaps merger inspired, diplomacy by sitting this one out) — hits a new low on the “Lack ‘O Subtlety Meter.” Given that the only one actively pushing reclassification these days has been yr hmbl obdn’t blogger, I should take this as a tribute to my personal skill. But it seems more likely an extension of the “shock and awe” tactics used by the incumbents to try to derail NN from the beginning.

Of course, this goes well beyond network neutrality. As AT&T’s previous lengthy exercises trying to justify Universal Service Fund reform under Title I (as well as AT&T’s less-than-direct acknowledgment that eliminating the phone network in favor of an IP-based network would eliminate interconnection requirements and complicate public safety access) attest, the question of FCC authority over broadband and what it can or can’t do under Title I impacts every area of the National Broadband Plan agenda.

Most of the argument in the letter is pretty standard, boiling down to “the universe is great under Title I dereg, don’t mess it up,” “Title II will impose horrible regulation, kill investment, destroy jobs, strangle puppies, etc.” with an additional “the FCC has no basis to change classification because nothing important has changed since the FCC reclassified last time.” Two things, however, require attention. Sadly, they mark the introduction by major players into the realm of “Tea Party” tactics similar to the Death Panels and mud slinging that have infected the health care debate and the financial reform debate.

More below . . .

Read More »

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Why Do People Hate “Free” So Much?

Watching Chris Anderson on Colbert last night gives me an excuse to write this little blog entry about Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of A Radical Price. Certainly it has stirred up debate, as such notions should. But a number of Anderson’s critics seem positively affronted that anyone could make an argument in favor of “free” as a business model. They react as if Anderson were a cross between an evil genius out to destroy the capitalist system, a charlatan peddling snake oil to the gullible, and an ignorant posseur worthy only of contempt. Mind you, that’s always life in the blogosphere to some degree, but is it really that crazy?

Happily, Tim Lee over at Technology Liberation Front has already written a cogent defense of Anderson’s actual argument. “Free” doesn’t mean everything free everywhere all the time, but it does mean that folks need to rethink traditional business models in light of changing technology and user expectations. Using free to either collect something of value to someone else (such as personal information or an audience) and/or taking the opportunity to “up sell” a premium service (or, as Anderson explained to Colbert, “Fremium”) has worked for many people and businesses.

Indeed, let me go one further on the crazy meter for you. Back at the beginning of the century, someone came up with an even crazier business model than “free.” Looking at new technology, this ignorant young pup adopted the business model of “pay other people to take my stuff.” Now what dumb ass thinks that you could make a living investing lots of money in creating a product, then actually paying people to take it from you. What a moron, right?

The fellow in question was William Paley, who built the CBS network on the model of paying affiliates to take programming. Paley deduced that he could charge advertisers more than enough money to cover the cost of program production and affiliate fees if he could offer advertisers a big enough audience. Meanwhile, a few hours north in New York City, a number of electronics companies (RCA, Westinghouse, and General Electric) were developing a model around cheap content to sell advertising and radios.

So all I am saying, is give free a chance.

Stay tuned . . .

Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Of Legitimacy, Paper Trails, and the Power of The Blogosphere: The Clinton/Diebold Episode

I like this because it makes so many useful points about so many important things in this election season. In particularly, I think there are valuable take aways about the importance of asking questions without pre-judging, the value of a paper trail in voting to everyone, and the power of the blogosphere to raise and answer serious concerns.

Yesterday, the progressive bologosphere began to buzz with rumors that Hilary Clinton had “stolen” the NH primary from Barack Obama because of errors by the Diebold optical scanning machines used by some NH polling places. The allegation rests on an observed swing in results between precincts using the Diebold optical scanners and hand count districts. Notably, the Brad Blog posted this piece which stated that “informal statistics” indicated that precincts counted by hand generally favored Obama by 2%, whereas precincts using the Diebold optical scanners generally favored Clinton by 4.5%, creating a 7% swing.

Few circumstantial evidence items appeared to lend credence to the rumor. Ron Paul supporters claimed Diebold shorted him 31 votes in one NH town. Diebold is not generally trusted by progressives, Clinton is not generally trusted by a number of progressives, and the pattern of wild variance between polling data and actual vote turn outs is similar to that seen in 2004, including the apparent consistency of the error. A general failure of the technology should produce a spread of errors, why would the same machine favor one candidate consistently?

This had the capacity to turn quite ugly (and I suppose still could). But the internet breeds the ability to check facts and analysis and discover more plausible explanations. This analysis from “DHinMI” on Daily Kos Diary, for example, shows why these accusations don’t hold up. Most importantly, NH requires a paper trail, so that it is easy to double check results. The variations are not consistent at 4.5% and only for Diebold optical scanners, but follow a geographic variation that more accurately accounts for the differences. The Ron Paul missing votes likewise appears to be a human error on the part of the town clerk certifying the results rather than the count itself.

To this I will add that we need to remember that we are dealing with relatively modest sample sizes. Quite good by the standards of modern statistical analysis but still relatively small so that a few thousand people changing their minds for different reasons out of over a hundred thousand votes cast can produce a statistically significant change.

But I must disagree with DHinMI that “ultimately, there’s tremendous arrogance and/or ignorance at play when people assume that Hillary Clinton’s victory in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary is or might be explained by election fraud.” It is a responsibility of citizens to hold their elected leaders accountable, to question results that raise legitimate questions, but — ultimately — to accept answers supported by the evidence. Certainly anyone leaping to the conclusion that Clinton conspired with Diebold on the basis of an initial question went way too far, and should accept the lesson in caution. But the investigation and retention of paper ballots will hopefully do what such investigations do when the subject is innocent: provide a definitive answer that lays the matter to rest and proves once again the integrity of the process, providing needed legitimacy.

I expect many people will shake their heads at those irresponsible internet nuts and their vile rumors, and will take the wrong message that the internet is full of whacko progressives who degenerate to conspiracy theories rather than face unpleasant realities. But I prefer to see this as an excellent example of the system working, just as a mild cold is a symptom of my functioning immune system driving out a virus. It emphasizes the need for paper ballots and mechanisms for confirming results, the importance of getting questions about legitimacy answered rather than having them fester, and the importance of the internet in letting people debate the facts and squash “whisper campaigns” one way or the other.

In Kenya, we have seen what happens when an election loses legitimacy because of widespread mistrust and efforts to suppress inquiry. I rejoice to live in a country where citizens feel free to exercise their responsibility to investigate and question election circumstances that raise questions, and equally rejoice that NH and the internet provide the means to answer those questions. It is neither arrogance nor lunacy to want to double check elections — especially in light of the suspicions raised in the past. Nor is it conspiracy or arrogance to provide answers that sustain the result. Indeed, if there is one lesson we can all take from this, it is the value of treating all those who take their duties as citizens seriously enough to participate with the respect due to a fellow and comrade rather than the hostility of an enemy combatant.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in How Democracy Works, Or Doesn't, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Look Who's Talking 700 MHz: Edwards, Bloggers, and Moveon, Oh my!

[Channeling Our Great Master, Stephen Colbert]
In an obvious attempt to curry favor and win the valuable “Tales of the Sausage Factory” endorsement, John Edwards released a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin the day after I announced I was scoping out his campaign. The Edwards letter endorsed three key policy positions of the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition: open access, network neutrality, and — my all time favorite and beloved of intensly geeky issues no one else gets — anonymous bidding.

That’s right! The Edwards campaign is actually cluefull enough and willing enough to get “into the weeds” to the point of endorsing anonymous bidding. Of course, the Edwards letter does not actually mention “ToTSF” or even PISC by name, but I’m sure that was just an oversight from the amazing speed with which they rushed to endorse the PISC positions after hearing that I was “checking them out.”

So, for all you folks from the Edwards campaign no doubt hanging on these words, all I can say is — well done! A tremendous Tip of the Hat to all of you. Still, in fairness to the other candidates (both Republicans and Democrats), I will need to wait to see whether they chose to endorse the PISC proposals before giving an official ToTSF endorsement.

[End Colbert]

Of course, Edwards isn’t the only one to start talking about the 700 MHz auction and what it means to our broadband future. For who else is talking about PISC proposals and the impact it appears to be having on Washington, see below . . . .

Read More »

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

Inventing the Future

Lots of Croquet news

Last week, Qwaq announced Forums, its enterprise conferencing product.

Yesterday, the Croquet Consortium announced its own formation, and the availability of the open SDK 1.0.

And yesterday, Impara announced an English language and free trial version of Plopp, its kid’s sketching product.

The blogosphere is busy: croquet, Qwaq, Plopp.

Posted in history: external milestones and context, Inventing the Future | Also tagged | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Death of a Citizen Journalist

This article in the Houston Chronicle discusses the death of Indymedia reporter Brad Will. You can find the official statement from Indymedia NY here.
The Chronicle article also gives a good summary of the Indy media movement and what draws people to it. Some reflections on the differences between “indy media,” “citizen journalism,” “mainstream media” and what it means to be a citizen and a journalist below.

UPDATE 11/6 — There is a Petition drive to the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico demanding that the United States request that the Mexican Government investigate the killing of Brad Will and give this incident the same wight and concern as the killing of an American journalist working for a mainstream media outlet. You can read the letter and sign here.

Read More »

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales of the Sausage Factory: Will the Last Powell Out Please Turn Off the Lights?

Michael Powell has announced his resignation as Chair of the FCC. Hardcore libertarian fiscal conservatives — such as the Wall St. J. and the CATO Institute — mourn his departure. By contrast, most public interest folks celebrate and condemn his legacies. Industry people, always wary of burning any bridges, give carefully guarded statements. And, of course, everyone speculates on who will be next chair.

As for my views? See below of course!

Read More »

Posted in Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)
  • Connect With Us

    Follow Wetmachine on Twitter!

Username
Password

If you do not have an account: Register