My Thoughts Exactly

Of a Fire in Christiantown

I’m a member of the volunteer firefighting company of Tisbury 651, a ladder truck that also goes by the nickname Tisbury Tower One, on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Saturday morning, three days ago, my company was called out to a fire on Christiantown Road in West Tisbury, a town that borders on Tisbury, under a mutual aid arrangement between the towns. The fire was at the home of Danny Prowten, a 63 year old thirty-year veteran of the West Tisbury Volunteer Fire Department. Mr. Prowten, whom I never met, died in the fire.

Many of the firefighters, EMTs and police who responded to the call, and all of those to first arrive, knew Danny Prowten well. Some of them had been his firefighting companions for twenty years or more. As I came to learn, he was reknowned for his courage and selflessness.

Newspaper accounts of the fire appear here and here and here, but they all say pretty much the same thing (and anyway, it’s not at all clear that any of these outlets actually had reporters on the scene — or if they were there, that they were allowed to stay anywhere nearby. I certainly didn’t notice anybody who wasn’t fire/police/EMT or family.)

I spent about seven hours on the call, and about two and a half hours at a “critical incident debriefing” Sunday, so the events of this past weekend are very much in my mind today.

Below, a few bloggish remarks slightly edited from notes I jotted Saturday & Sunday nights–just my way of decompressing.

R.I.P., brother Prowten.

UPDATED I have added and deleted some things since first posting. Please see the first paragraph after the fold.

Read More »

Posted in Firefighting, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

700 MHz Final Tweaks: Limited Relief for Frontline, Google Looks to Bid

So with the December 3 date for the filing of short forms to participate in the 700 MHz auction looming ever closer, we see some last minute shifting about and settling of a few lingering details. First, in the I called it category (as did my friend and fellow Wetmachiner Greg Rose, various news outlets report that Google seems increasingly likely to bid in the 700 MHz auction. Further support for the idea that Google really intends to bid comes from their filing a request for clarification from the FCC that when the FCC said “no discrimination,” they meant the usual statutory version that allows discounts for volume customers and such what (the usual statutory language prohibits “unreasonable discrimination,” which allows for things like bulk discounts provided everyone that meets the criteria gets the same deal).

Mind, it isn’t a sure thing Google will bid until it files a short form, and folks can file to bid without being willing to put up the money. But given the number of folks who said Greg and I were on crack for expecting Google to actually put up its own money to go against the likes of Verizon, we can perhaps be forgiven for patting ourselves on the back for being so far out ahead of the curve on this.

More importantly, perhaps, is the FCC’s decision last week to provide limited help to Frontline Wireless by allowing a designated entity (DE) that wins the D Block auction to wholesale its spectrum without losing its DE credit. (You can read the FCC Press release here and the full text of the Order here.) Now how does this help? And why limit it to D Block? And what the heck is a “DE” anyway?

Answers and speculations below . . . .

Read More »

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

The 700 MHz Dramedy Continues

Ya know, I had real hopes that, barring a Petition for Reconsideration or two, I was pretty much done with the 700 MHz auction. Sure, Verizon filed a lawsuit with the DC Circuit, but at least we could sit back and stop worrying about the FCC stuff. And besides, the lawsuit didn’t really have much of a chance anyway. So, after a grueling 6 months or so, I thought I could finally relax and turn to something new, like kicking the bejeezus out of the cable monopoly.

Hah.

As recent reports indicate, Verizon has apparently pressed the FCC to “clarify” the C Block conditions. I say “apparently” because Verizon has not actually filed a request for any sort of clarification, reconsideration, or declaratory ruling. Indeed, to my considerable annoyance, it took a modest reprimand from the Wireless Bureau and Martin’s staff for Verizon to actually put something in the record vaguely resembling a description of what Verizon’s most senior lobbyists actually discussed with the Chairman and his staff. Verizon, meanwhile, vigorously denies they ever asked for reconsideration (and, separately, that it finds the accusation that it violated the ex parte shocking and deeply offensive).

In any event, it appears the issue is whether or not Verizon (if it won the C Block licenses) could continue its practice of asking manufacturers to strip out or limit features or applications on devices that run on the C Block. Verizon argues that consumers love subsidized handsets and letting the cell phone operator make all the tough decisions (like what applications can run on the device), and it would therefore be cruel to deny the C Block licensee the right to offer such fantastic products and deals — as long as the C Block licensee will hook up any third party device that meets the technical standards.

To Martin’s credit, he reached out to the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition (PISC) and asked our opinion on whether the C Block licensee should be able to sell “crippled” devices as long as it will also connect any third party device to the network. Martin was apparently sufficiently impressed by my wisdom that he then tried to issue a clarification that Harold Feld is right and Verizon is wrong. The Democrats promptly moved to block, because they suspected a trap, since the idea that Martin would side with me over Verizon is apparently laughable (I have no doubt the Democrats mean that in a nice way and that it does not reflect on the quality of my wisdom). Of course, I have no idea what the proposed clarification actually said, since it is illegal to show me the actual predicisional text. But it is not illegal for Martin to say that he agreed with me or for the Dems to say that’s not how they read the proposed clarification. Remember, ambiguity is the essence of comedy.

In any event, as in any good dramedy, further hijinks naturally ensue from this potent combination of distrust and lack of information. Rumors of this “clarification” prompted Verizon’s arch-nemesis, supporter of wholesale access, and potential rival bidder Frontline to challenge Verizon’s efforts to get the rules changed. This triggered a response from Verizon that they hadn’t asked for a rules change, and that furthermore, on reconsideration, the FCC should issue a declaratory ruling that “Frontline is ugly and their VCs dress them funny.” Meanwhile, now with a full posse of PISC buddies, I went back to the FCC to explain that while I am always flattered to have the FCC declare my interpretation of its rules to be the law of the land (and encourage them to do this on a more regular basis), we at PISC think the Order is perfectly clear and that if anyone wants it clarified they should have to formally file a motion and ask.

One might logically ask why, if Verizon wants the Order changed or clarified, it doesn’t just file a motion and ask. That would be a problem for Verizon, however, because it cannot simultaneously file a Recon Petition under 47 USC 405 and a Petition for Review by a federal appellate court under 47 USC 402. There are ways to try to get around this, but this statutory conflict would explain why Verizon has danced around this issue and pretended it is merely a continuation of its previous arguments properly filed in this docket. Assuming, of course, that they actually want a clarification, which they claim they don’t.

So, if Verizon hasn’t put in an explicit request, why does Martin feel a need to act? Does Verizon really have a leg to stand on, or is this just an effort to refight the same battle? And what about the tech companies? Why don’t we want the FCC to proclaim that I am right on my interpretation of the Order? And will the Red Sox finally face the Cubs in a World Series “curse off?”

O.K., I have no clue on the last one. But as for the rest of these questions (and perhaps a bit more), see below….

Read More »

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

My Thoughts Exactly

Libby trial reflection: “My pencil is dull and my handwriting stinks”

Isadore Barmash, who passed away last November at the age of 84, was a longtime reporter for the New York Times. Political junkies may be forgiven for not being familiar with his extensive body of work, for Barmash’s beat was retail business, not politics. He had a particular interest in the apparel industry (he had worked at Women’s Wear Daily before joining the Times). His articles were found most often not in the front section of the paper, but deep in the business pages. I myself don’t care about fashion, and when I read a newspaper I usually skip the business stories. So I’m not the kind of guy who would be expected to notice Barmash’s byline. But I used to follow Barmash’s work because for a period in from the late 60’s through 1975, when I was in high school and college, he had series of front-page-of-the-New-York-Times articles that I found absolutely compelling.

His subject was my father.

I thought of Barmash a few weeks ago when Tim Russert’s testimony at the Lewis Libby trial was reported. Under oath, Russert said that when he talked to senior government officials, everything was “off the record” unless the official explicitly agreed to go “on the record.” People who value the role of journalism in a democracy were appalled by Russert’s admission, but attentive students of contemporary American “journalism” were not surprised. Dan Froomkin rightly said, “That’s not reporting, that’s enabling.” Russert’s sworn testimony made patently clear that what he does for a living is not journalism properly understood, but rather a form of court stenography served up in a a faux-journalism format.

Below the fold, what Barmash, a real journalist, told my father about “on the record” and “off the record.”

Read More »

Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)
  • Connect With Us

    Follow Wetmachine on Twitter!

Username
Password

If you do not have an account: Register