Tales of the Sausage Factory

McDowell Forgets He Already Voted That FCC Has Authority To Enforce NN Rules.

I recently complained that no one else ever seems to follow the record on the network neutrality stuff. But Commissioner McDowell took the prize for failure to remember what he had previously voted for in this very proceeding back in March 2007 when the Commission voted out the Notice of Inquiry that started this whole thing. Mind you, McDowell should not feel too bad, given that nobody else at the FCC seems to remember this stuff either. Not when they wrote the Comcast/BitTorrent Order, nor even when they wrote the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last week. Despite the fact that both items are actually in the same blasted docket. Because good God almighty, how hard is it for the staff at the FCC to actually know the friggin’ docket? It’s just the basis for this entire proceeding. And the entire collective agency cannot remember that it voted as settled law by 5-0 that it has authority to regulate and enforce network neutrality rules. And that McDowell not only voted in favor, he explicitly concurred!

I swear, it’s enough to make a poor obsessed policy wonk tear out what’s left of his hair and beard.

More below . . . .

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Inventing the Future

No Deal, Charles

I agree that we are on the precipice of a disaster. I would like us to act to prevent it. I do not insist on assigning blame or even being fair in how we act, as there will be time for that later. The only thing that is required of how we act is that it solves the problem.

No one has explained to me how taking the bad loans off the books of banks actually solves the problem. What has been explained to me by the officials and the politicians is that there is far more money at risk than that tied up in these loans. The money has been promised to average Joes, governments, and wild speculators, based on the idea that other average Joes, governments, and wild speculators will pay even more for these incomprehensible instruments in the future. At the original bottom of this pyramid are the at-risk loans. Yes, I agree that there is a crisis of confidence in the market, as the President put it. But I fail to see how now the politicians now suddenly understand these instruments, and that the way to keep them from collapsing is to take the loans off the books of the banks.

Are they saying that they intend for average Joes, governments, and wild speculators to keep shoveling ever-increasing amounts of money into the derivative market based on these loans? Ponzi schemes do collapse when triggered by a failure of confidence, but a child can see that even with no failure of confidence, they can only be sustained as long as there are increasing amounts of investment at the bottom. Eventually, the world runs out of money.


Now is the time to drop a note or leave a message for your representatives and let them know how you feel. Their contact info is online. Don’t forget to tell them that you’re in their district/state.

Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", Inventing the Future | Also tagged , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

'Scuse Me Whilst I Pause to Savor the Irony — Wall St. J Writer Blames Kevin Martin For Slow Broadband

So Wall St. Journal Technology Review Walt Mossberg blames Kevin Martin for our ridiculous slow broadband speed.

Here’s the dialog:

Mossberg: “You are the head of the FCC. How have you allowed this to happen? I AM DEAD SERIOUS. HOW HAVE YOU ALLOWED THIS TO HAPPEN?

Martin: “I am not sure I am solely responsible. I am also not sure the charts capture the whole story. I think you do have to put in the context some of the demographics of the United States and some of the countries we are competing against.

Mossberg: Does that explain why we pay $12.50 per megabit in the United States as opposed to $3.09 in Japan and $3.70 in France? Why are we paying four times as much?

Martin: Yes it does. Because it costs a lot more to build out in more rural areas and people who live further apart… We have a history of averaging some of the cost to make it affordable for people in Montana.

I find this ironic on two levels. First, I have a memory that goes back far enough to remember the Wall St. Journal editorials absolutely crucifying Kevin Martin when, as a Commissioner, he tried to stop Michael Powell’s full-bore deregulation of broadband and the local telephone loop because only a completely laissez faire non-regulatoy approach could get industry to invest and do its job. Ditto the editorials on why C Block open device conditions because any sort of government mandate is bad bad bad BAD and can never, ever, ever be good.

Yes, I know that the Wall St. J. prides itself on having an ironclad fire wall between the reporting function and that editorial function. So I am not saying that Mossberg is being inconsistent or hypocritical in any way. But it is still ironic that reporters dismayed at the current state of affairs blame Kevin Martin for failure to act, while the folks on the Editorial Page routinely pillory Martin for even thinking the word “regulation” without puting a “de” in front.

Second, it’s ironic because, while I will be the first to say that Martin has not done nearly enough for my money (let’s start with not adopting mandatory wholesale as we at PISC recommended for half the auctioned 700 MHz spectrum last year, and the painfully slow pace of Universal Service Fund Reform), he has done more to foster the development of better broadband at faster speeds than any other member of the Bush Administration. Unlike, say, former NTIA Administrator John Kneuer, who explained last year how everything in American broadband was just ducky and we just need to stay the course, Martin has acknowledged that we need to do better and have higher expectations (although, again, not going nearly far enough IMO). This includes not merely making a show of reforming the FCC’s impossibly lame broadband study and report, but actually making some substantive improvements.

Mind you, I’m not defending Kevin Martin’s record on broadband here. And I will readily acknowledge that he’s been a good soldier for the Bush Administration on a number of key issues (I do not hold my breath to learn if AT&T and Verizon broke the law when they cooperated with NSA on domestic spying). But I cannot let the double irony of a Wall St. J. columnist blaming Kevin Martin for our wretched national broadband situation go unpassed, when the Wall St. J. editorial board has been in the vangaurd of pillorying Kevn Martin any time he actually tries to do something.

Again, I know Wall St. J. takes great pride in keeping its editorial board and reporting functions separate, but it’s still delightful. At least, for those of us in the progressive movement who have always been utterly consistent in blaming Kevin Martin and the rest of the Bush Administration for not nearly going far enough. That’s why next week at National Conference on Media Reform, the Martin-bashing won’t be ironic. It will be heartfelt, sincere, consistent, and deeply passionate Martin bashing. Well, actually it will be ironic then, too; but for entirely different reasons I will post about next week.

But for the Wall St. J. and its fellow worshipers of the Gods of the Marketplace, I can only smile and say “what, you don’t like the world the Gods of the Marketplace have made? Then I guess you better pray harder — or perhaps consider a different faith.”

Stay tuned . . . .

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Brief Update On $16 Billion Termites

SO it turns out in 2003, the FCC amended the rules — but only with regard to higher power services governed by Subpart F. These higher power services were explicitly made secondary to any new entrants following the digital transition. (See 47 CFR 74.602(h)(3)). But the lower power wireless microphones governed by Part H (47 CFR 74.800 et seq) were not so designated.

I suppose an argument can (and will) be made that the FCC’s 2003 BAS Order designated all BAS services as secondary to new entrants in Channels 52-69. But it should be reflected in the rules, and failure to modify 47 CFR 74.802 creates legal headaches at the very least. And, even if the argument is accepted, it doesn’t solve the problem of all the legacy equipment in the hands of tens of thousands of users who will potentially be screwing up the new licensed wireless systems.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Brief update on White Spaces

For those following the current White Spaces follies (or, “how Microsoft crashed an entire proceeding by treating spectrum as if it were software”) the FCC announced it will do further testing on white spaces prototypes.

That’s a modest victory for pro-white spaces forces, as the NAB had tried to leverage the failure of the (broken) Microsoft device to force the FCC to shut down the proceeding (or, more realistically, go with stationary devices and say no to mobile devices, with sufficient restrictions on power level and use of adjacent channels to make the white spaces virtually useless). At the same time, however, it ups the stakes pretty severely. Another “blue screen of static” and the NAB will probably get its way.

My sense is that a majority of Commissioners would like to see this happen, if they are convinced the engineering works. That doesn’t just mean a proof of concept. That means a demonstration that the technology today works sufficiently well that the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology can say with confidence “if devices follow these rules, they will not interfere with people trying to watch free over-the-air TV.” We know the theory works, but is the technology ready for prime time?

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Assessing the 700 MHz Order Part IV: Lingering Doubts and Details

The Wireless Bureau has released its Public Notice (“PN”) for the 700 MHz auction. In addition to setting the date for the start of the auction as January 16, 2008, the PN also addresses a bunch of questions left over by the Order. The biggest of these are: (a) Setting rules for package bidding; and (b) setting reserve prices on a “per block” (rather than “per license” basis) for the auction.

What does that mean? Well, the Commission in the Order decided to protect itself politically from accusations that it had set the rules too aggressively and therefore killed the auction. The Commission therefore used its authority to create “reserve prices,” or minimum prices that bidders must meet before the Commission will award the licenses. The Commission has used reserve prices before, but generally on a license by license basis not on a “block by block” basis. Nor has the Commission ever guaranteed a reauction if a block of licenses fails to meet a set reserve price.

“Package bidding,” as discussed in previous posts, means allowing people to bid on a set “package” of licenses rather than requiring a bidder to bid on each license individually. This encourages people to bid because it means I won’t get stuck with licenses I don’t want if I fail to win one or two critical licenses that make it worthwhile (this is called the “exposure” problem). So if I only want the C Block licenses if I can get national coverage, I will still participate in the auction because I know if I lose any C Block licenses, I won’t get stuck paying bilions for the licenses I did win but now no longer want.

The use of this combination of factors, along with the failure of the Commission to adopt an “either/or” rule that would require a bidder to go after either the D Block license or C Block licenses, makes me uneasy. I can see scenarios where a bidder gets the D Block cheap, then chooses to enhance coverage by bidding aggressively for one or two C Block licenses. That’s not necessarily bad, except it may prevent the creation of a second national player because it deprives the second national player of licenses it needs to complete its package (I’m not postulating deliberate blocking, you understand, I’m looking at the potential interplay of circumstances frustrating the likelihood of new national entrants). OTOH, the ability to bid on both D block and C Block may encourage bidders to be more aggressive in both blocks, and may create a larger pool of bidders for these blocks over all.

But what really worries me is the reserve prices. Why? See below . . . .

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Posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

expressing things that matter; an old story

I was touched by this story in today’s Boston Globe.

I liked the human crafstmanship in the telling, and deeply moved by the dramatic yet universal tale of the failure to live up to our potential.

So I gave it to my 11 year old daughter to read. I asked her why she thought I wanted her to read it. “So I won’t take drugs. Duh.”

I said, “something like that, but there’s something else….” But she had already left the room, singing Avril Lavigne.

Posted in General, General, General, Inventing the Future, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged | 1 Comment (Comments closed)
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