Tales of the Sausage Factory

The 700 MHz Endgame Part II: Assessing the Martin Offer and Manuevering Room for Replies

In part I, I wrote about Martin’s carefull PR blitz to frame the 700 MHz endgame. But its important to look at the substance of Martin’s draft order itself. Because, as always, Martin is damn clever, and has put stuff in there that is bloody tempting to go for the compromise. To keep this manageable, I will limit my discussion here to just assessing the rumored offer and how I think we could improve it, keeping in mind that this is just press reports and really doesn’t cover the panoply of issues. In Part III, I will provide my Field Guide for the Endgame, reminiscent of my original Impossibly Long Field Guide from April (how much things have changed in 3 months).

Assessment below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Open Mouth, Insert Foot, and Hopefully Learn Lesson.

Generally, I try to limit myself to talking about things I know about and recognize what I don’t know about. But, like most of us, I occassionally think I know more than I do. Such is the case of my recent comment in ComputerWorld about the muni deployment situation in San Francisco. In the last few days, I’ve received a barrage of angry letters and calls from friends of mine on the ground in SF wanting to know what the Hell I was thinking when I said: “”They’ve created a mess in San Francisco where the city seems to be negotiating with Google or Earthlink and not the community.”

Sadly, I cannot even say I was misquoted or taken out of context. Matt Hamblen got my quote exactly right. It turns out, however, that I had it exactly wrong. As my angry SF friends have let me know in no uncertain terms, the City of San Francisco, Google and Earthlink have been conducting neighborhood surveys, meeting with local community leaders, and responding to this input with substantive changes.

So how did I screw up so badly? And what did I learn from all this? See below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Open Access Included in Spectrum Notice! Fish In Trees! Rivers Running Uphill!

Yesterday, I wrote, with regard to whether the FCC’s Further Notice on the 700 MHz Spectrum Auction would include questions on our open access proposal:

I think our chances of moving forward to the next round are pretty close to zero. OTOH, I live from day-to-day in the hope of pleasant surprises.

Apparently, I live another day. And so does the open access proposal. As explained by Gigi Sohn, we live to fight another day.

It was a wild meeting. Pushed back from 9:30 to 10:30, then pushed off again until 6:45 p.m. The contentious issue was, as predicted, license size. Apparently, McDowell teamed with the Ds to make sure the Further Notice requested comment on a mix of licenses and not just the large licenses that Martin wanted.

The Order is not yet out, so I can’t really assess yet what the results are. Heck, they don’t even have all the seperate statements up yet. Here are links to the news release, Chairman Martin’s statement (expressing disappointment over the license size issue), Commissioner Adestein’s statement (with a shout out to the public interest coalition!), and Commissioner McDowell’s statement (which basically says “I know I’m the swing vote, but I need to catch up on the comments because I’ve been out with my new kid”).

But whatever happens, I gotta give a shout out to Martin for being willing to put the open access question out there and have it debated. Yes, all credit to the Ds. But I don’t believe we would be positioned to have the discussion about wireless open access if Martin had been dead set against it.

Off to bed. It’s been a day.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

FCC Staff resolves leased access complaint after only 3 years! Go team!

O.K., it is probably a bad idea to make fun of people for doing stuff you want them to do. So when the FCC released a leased access complaint on January 29, I should probably have just applauded for joy. But given that it took three years to resolve a complaint when the cable company in question never even filed a reply to the complaint, I think a little mention of what is wrong with the current leased access rules, and the Commission’s enforcement of same, is needed.

And I will pause to put in a genuinely good word for the New Media Chief Monica Shah Desai for getting this cranked out relatively quickly after she got there. Keep crackin’ that whip!

But the decision also highlights everything I’ve been complaning about in the current leased access system so that even the people who want to make it work are having a heck of a time and why we need the leased access rulemaking that Martin promised Adelstein back in July.

Some analysis below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

FCC Hearings and Home Court Advantage?

The FCC has now announced the schedule for the first of six public hearings on media ownership to take place outside of Washington DC. According to the official announcement, the FCC will hold two separate hearings in the Los Angeles area next Tuesday, October 3. One at USC from 1:30- 4:30 p.m. and the other at El Segundo High School in El Segundo from 6:30-10:30 p.m.

Of possible interest is the fact that the Mayor of El Segundo, Kelly McDowell, is the brother of Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell. As Commissioner McDowell remarked at his confirmation hearing last spring:

> “My oldest brother, Kelly McDowell, is the mayor of El Segundo, California. And if you’ve ever flown
> into Los Angeles Airport, you’ve flown into my brother’s town.“

It certainly makes sense for McDowell to want to have a hearing in his brother’s home town, and for Martin to acquiesce. For one thing, it will certainly raise the visibility of the hearing for El Segundo residents and local press. It makes getting a community location and local coordination easier. Heck, if my brother were mayor somewhere, I’d want to have a hearing in his town. And, as Robert McDowell observed, it’s close to the airport. Given that the Commissioners will be on red-eye flights going home, that has to be convenient.

On the other hand, it raises obvious concerns about giving pro-consolidation folks a ”home court“ advantage. As Mayor, Kelly McDowell is uniquely positioned to encourage witnesses who will support the current FCC’s policy of relaxing ownership rules while subtly discouraging attendance by folks who might challenge accepted FCC positions.

This puts the pressure on Martin to ensure not merely impartiality, but the appearance of impartiality. After the recent reports that — prior to Martin becoming chair — the FCC suppresed studies demonstrating the negative impacts of media consolidation, public trust for the FCC as an institution interested in an impartial investigation and analysis of the facts is at an all-time low.

Martin has already taken a good first step in neutralizing any accusation of bias. The FCC will have a hearing at the USC in Los Angeles before going out to El Segundo. This same location recently hosted a media ownership event sponsored by media activists and attended by FCC Commissioners Copps and Adelstein, neutralizing any ”home court advantage“ for indusry on at least the first hearing.

But the FCC has yet to announce how it will assign seats or provide ”open microphone“ opportunities at either hearing. Nor has the FCC yet announced its witness lists. A highly suspicious audience will look carefully to see if the ”local leader“ pool is stacked with pro-consolidation witnesses, while local leaders, local business folks and residents opposed to consolidation don’t make the list. It is essential to any appearance of fairness that the FCC announce procedures for getting seats and signing up for speaking opportunities well in advance, and adopt procedures that give as many people as possible a chance to speak.

Martin has repeatedly proven himself a man who plays hardball, but an honest game of hardball. He has demonstrated sophisticated political skills while navigating highly controversial issues. Unlike his predecessor Michael Powell, Kevin Martin has proven time and again that he recognizes the value of meeting with people with whom he disagrees, and actually listening to what they have to say.

But real public hearings that foster genuine public input provide challenges for even the most skilled. That’s why Republicans in this administration have assidulously avoided them, preferring ”town meetings“ filled with supporters and lackeys. The media ownership hearings provide an opportunity for Kevin Martin to show his commitment to real openness — if he can resist the urge to use a ”home court” advanatge.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Yet Another Amazing Esme Conference Comes To a Close

Sorry to go dark for so long. As future posts will explain, it’s been a busy time and likely to get busier.

One thing keeping me busy has been my presence here at Esme’s latest conference on muniwireless broadband. In addition to time with the fabulous Esme herself a number of very cool people are also here.

The conference has morphed quite a bit since I attended the first one below. My brief reflections (and what it means for the muniwireless industry generally) below.

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Inventing the Future

Jesus Speaks

This could give rise to an an interesting copyright challenge.

From some junk mail I got from the company that makes the technology: “Brian Morrissey of Adweek, wrote it better than we ever could: ‘Any institution around for thousands of years must know a thing or two about product promotion. That’s why churches are a great place to find new marketing tactics. Heck, the Pope is podcasting. Now a Palm Harbor, Fla. -based minister has produced what we’re guessing is the first interactive rich media representation of Jesus’…

”Since the dawn of the third millennium corporations have been using our VHost™ technology to deploy famous people including everyone from Elvis and Stephen King to Einstein and Woody Harrelson.”

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

TotSF: A modest fling of Theses

Just got back from Adam’s event at DNC. Not a bad beginning, but if this is gonna move to a real movement within the DNC it needs to energize itself ASAP.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

The RFID Privacy Questions Continue

USA Today has a story about how a uniform supply company is using its RFID tag uniforms. The company scoffs at the idea that it is tracking individual workers. As for me, I ain’t laughin’.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales of the Sausage Factory: Of Open Access, Kicking Butt, and Why Arbs Don't Know Jack

The Ninth Circuit has given us another win in the fight to make cable plants open their facilities to independent ISPs (aka “open access” ). Winning feels good, especially when you predicted it over the odds given by the “experts”. The experts here are the industry analysts and arbitrageurs (or “arbs” ). What does it mean, and why are the experts so often wrong? See my opinions below.

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