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)

Inventing the Future

“The Medium is the Message”

One of the arguments against sharing music was society will be diminished because no one will create music without a sufficient intellectual property incentive.

We now have a flourishing culture of sharing for video, in which people of diverse skill levels are creating huge amounts of content. No shortage there.

So I want to ask, “Is there a flourishing of digital music content today?” Surely it is easier to both create and enjoy music than it is for video. (Music requires lower bandwidth and less power, play-anywhere music devices are good and plentiful, and music creation software are quite fantastic.)

It feels like there is lot of free music available in video form. I wonder if the legal fight against music sharing — rather than sharing itself — has stifled the medium of sound-only recording, even as the more demanding but less legally bullied video medium has exploded. The music itself has just been switched to a new medium, and may ultimately be better for it.

Meanwhile, it seems that half the top 10 best selling printed novels in Japan were written on and for cell phone distribution. I’ve heard that the explosion in the genre coincides with the spread of flat-rate pricing on text messaging.

Posted in Inventing the Future, meta-medium | Also tagged , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Summer Heat

I have no news. Or too much.

I thought summer was supposed to be “off season” in academia, but things have been incredibly busy. Some of the stuff we’ve been doing:

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Posted in history: external milestones and context, Inventing the Future | Also tagged , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Inventing the Future: research applications

American companies and institutions tend to create projects based on either immediately practical applications or open-ended research. In Japan I encountered something else: comparatively long term application-oriented research projects.

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Posted in Inventing the Future | Also tagged | 1 Comment (Comments closed)
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