Tales of the Sausage Factory

So What's Up With That FCC Investigating Apple and AT&T Blocking Google Voice — Oh Wait, They Aren't . . .

So while I was gone, Apple and/or AT&T turned down Google’s effort to get a Google Voice Application certified for the iPhone, so the FCC launched an investigation into the matter.

Except they didn’t. Not exactly. Which is extremely important on the delicate question of FCC authority. Actually, the FCC invited three companies involved in a very high-level spat on an issue pending before the FCC in two proceedings to provide them with useful information on how the market actually works.

I know, I know, this is all boring legal stuff that folks who care just about outcomes hate with a passion — or think is just cheap legal handwaving. But these things matter, both as a matter of law and and as a matter of policy. The fact is that the FCC is very carefully not exercising authority over anyone. The companies don’t even need to respond. However, if they fail to respond, they invite the FCC (and the rest of us) to assume the worst. Because allowing industry folks to foreclose needed agency action by simply refusing to provide necessary information is a crappy outcome we’ve lived with for the last 8 years (longer, really). Far smarter to invite industry folks to respond to questions, but decide that at some point you need to move with the information you have. Heck, if the FCC pulls that trick only once, I bet we’ll see lots more folks with relevant information willing to come forward.

So while I expect lots of folks to yammer about FCC authority on August 21 when the answers are due, they’ll be barking up the wrong tree. Won’t stop ’em, of course. But for those who would like a sense of what is actually going on from a legal/regulatory authority angle —

More below . . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

An Interesting Tea Leaf on AWS-3/M2Z

Well, I keep saying I will do the big posting on AWS-3/M2Z, and keep not getting to it. So I will just drop a short note for the fellow FCC policy junkies who follow this stuff closely. You can find background on the AWS-3/M2Z business here, here, and here.

The FCC extended the filing deadline on the proposal released June 20 to reapportion spectrum between the AWS-2 band and the AWS-3 band (as well as mandatory content filtering). Comments were originally due on a tight deadline (today). This extends things out to a full 30 days for comments and 14 days for reply, so the new dates are July 25 and August 11. That’s less than what the wireless carriers wanted, and it explicitly rejects the request for the FCC to do its own testing. In fact, the whole tenor of the Order provides a rich field for us FCC-ologists to start gazing in tea dregs and rummaging through pigeon entrails.

More below . . .

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Inventing the Future

Going to California With…

I like to think I’m particularly adaptable on those occasions when I happen to recognize that I need to be, but I perpetually feel inadequate in recognizing when the rules of the universe have changed. That’s a pretty significant skill to be lacking when you’re trying to invent the future.

So it is with even more than the usual range of emotions that I have come to “sell” our home in Wisconsin and will finally be moving to California. I am told that this is an extraordinary accomplishment, but I’ve “adapted” so much, the celebration has a Pyrrhic cast.

The US housing market has all but ceased to exist as a functioning market with any sort of liquidity. In my neighborhood, there should statistically be about one home sale each week. Ours was the seventh in the previous eight months, and I think all of those were the previous calendar year. The issue seems to be that every sale is contingent on having the buyers sell their home, which isn’t happening, so the whole country is waiting for one big circle jerk. Many housing industry folks are claiming that prices have not fallen much, but that’s disingenuous – the average selling price nationally and in most areas hasn’t fallen much only because the average home size continues to rise. The average price per square foot of any particular existing fixed-size house is dropping like a stone in a still pond. (Areas that do not see average housing sizes grow have indeed been seeing a big drop in average selling price.) And with bankers knowing this and knowing that several hundred of their ilk are being carted off by the FBI – no I’m not making this up – they’re not making a lot of bridge loans that would allow folks to buy one house before they sell the next.

So here’s what we did:

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Posted in Inventing the Future, Philosophical business mumbo-jumbo | Also tagged , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Comcast and BitTorrent, or "Honestly Charlie Brown, The Market Dictates I Let You Kick The Football THIS Time.”

[First, a rather important point to Richard Bennett and anyone who may be confused. This blog is my own. It is not a “Media Access” blog, and it does not represent MAP policy. I very deliberately do not show this stuff to anyone at MAP for prior approval before I write it. This is me personally sounding off. Got it? This is in addition to my day job. (Although my wrath at this mischaracterization is tempered by his describing this blog as “popular.”)]

There must be something in the air that has turned Comcast from a fighter to a lover. Apparently, Comcast and BitTorrent have kissed and made up, Brian Roberts has stood barefoot in the snow beneath Kevin Martin’s window at Canossa, and all is now supposed to be well in the world. Nothing to see here, move along, these aren’t the droids we’re looking for, and once again the magic of the market solves everything.

I would have written earlier, but I was having a flashback to when AOL Time Warner committed to creating an interoperable instant messenger. Then I was flashing on when AT&T Broadband and Earthlink “solved” the original open access problem by negotiating a contract and thus proving that “the market” would guarantee that independent ISPs would be able to resell cable modem service just like they were reselling DSL. Then I woke up vomiting. I always have a bad reaction to whatever folks smoke to conclude “the free market solves everything” especially when (a) this was the result of a regulatory two-by-four applied directly to Comcast’s scalp, repeatedly; and (b) nothing actually happened except for a real and sincere comitment to yack about stuff — at least until the regulators go away. Still, like Lucy and Charlie Brown, there are some folks for whom this just never gets old.

So while I’m glad to see Comcast forced to play the penitent, confess wrongdoing, and appear to give a full surrender, and while I generally like the idea of industry folks and ISPs getting together to actually do positive stuff on internet architecture issues, I think wild celebrations from the anti-regulators and the expectation that we can declare “Mission Accomplished” and go home is a shade premature. Indeed, the only people who believe this announcement actually solves anything are — by and large — those who didn’t believe there was a problem in the first place. I believe the technical term for such folks is “useful idiots.”

My further thoughts below….

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Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | 19 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Did Morgan OBrien and Cyren Call Kill Frontline?

I’m getting a number of folks from different walks of life coming forward with the same story: Morgan O’Brien was the direct cause of Frontline’s investors pulling out.

Of course, there is no way I can actually confirm this on the record because the people in the room either can’t talk about it (due to the anticollusion rules) or won’t. Nevertheless, having confirmed this with sources I find reliable and who could not have coordinated with each other, I feel I need to come forward here and put this on the table. D Block and the public safety partnership are far too important to end up falling victim to the combination of insider baseball, manipulation and greed that appears at play here.

I have absolutely not talked to anyone at the FCC about this. No one at the FCC can legally respond to any of this, and I would not ask them to do so. Similarly, in my discussions, I have been at pains to avoid any conflict with the anticollusion rules. Nevertheless, the sources I have are, I believe, reliable, and I have therefore made a decision to go forward with this story. I must also add that because I am on sabbatical, I have not had any discussions about this with my employer, Media Access Project, or with anyone at Media Access Project while developing this story.

Details below . . . .

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Memo to RIAA: It's not the “piracy” — your music sucks

For about five or six years now, I’ve been hearing the music industry folks piss and moan about how downloads are killing their profits. My usual response has been to observe that (a) while true that CD sales declined in 2001-2004, those were also years of general economic recesion and it was no surprise sales dropped (the music industry has been pretty quite about this since the CD market rebounded along with the economy in 2005); (b) if you put out an over-priced crappy product, the market will respond.

The problem is that most executives in the entertainment industry have enjoyed their monopoly status for so long that when the market finally responds, they get caught completely by surprise and usually enter a state of denial. (This is equally true for broadcasting and movies and cable, al of which have spent the last ten years or so busily consolidating and producing predictable products. Eventually, sales and ratings decline. And these guys are are surprised and looking for some regulatory fix they can plug to solve their “problem” — like broadcast flag or limits on satellite radio.) As a result, they don’t want to hear that they need to stop abusing their customers and work for a living.

A recent poll provides one more piece of evidence which I predict the music ndustry and their lap dogs in Congress will continue to blissfully ignore. A recent poll shows that most music fans don’t “steal music” and are very happy to pay for quality products — particularly things like downloading that really suit their needs. But music lovers are tired of being treated like trained seals expected to buy whatever the music industry offers at whatever price they chose to sell it in whatever format the music industry insists on providing.

Why this trend is so shocking in the music industry when we see it in a variety of other industries (have YOU driven a Ford lately? Probably not, because they offer crappy behemoth-class cars instead of better fuel efficient ones) I have no idea. I guess being a cartel gives you such a sense of security you forget about that whacky free market you’re always praising in Washington.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Martin Misses an Opportunity

If you’re going to shake up the FCC’s open meeting by focusing on Katrina and moving to Bell South’s emergency HQ, why couldn’t Martin have focused a little bit on the future? Rather than looking at the way in which technology changed relief, Martin summoned the usual industry suspects who, unsurprisingly, explained to the FCC why they need regulatory goodies to better serve the public. Perhaps the Chairman can be persuaded to hold another meeting or forum a month or two down the road to look at where we should go, not where we’ve been.

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

They Just Don't Get It

My jaw dropped when I saw this article in in Time Magazine online describing how the Bush administration is now punishing industry folks who supported Kerry. Don’t these people understand how a _stable_ democracy works, as opposed to an unstable one?
More below . . .

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