Tales of the Sausage Factory

Scott Cleland Needs To Work Harder On Ad Hominems. Or, better yet, skip them entirely.

I happen to like Scott Cleland as a person, and I recognize he’s got job to do, but certain kinds of ad hominem attacks are just lazy — and stupid. I’m referring here to Cleland’s to attempts at “gotcha” posts in recent days. One directed against my employer Public Knowledge, the other directed against fellow traveler Free Press.

First, in the flap over Google Voice and blocking, Cleland accused PK of having a double standard — demanding AT&T not use “self-help” on blocking traffic stimulator sites while turning a blind eye to GV doing the same thing. I can understand Scott missing my quote the week earlier in Communications Daily condemning the practice (and suggesting that if they claim the right to block calls then networks can refuse to complete GV originating calls), Communications Daily is a paid subscription and not available online. But how did Cleland miss my initial post on the subject in which I said the FCC should investigate if Google really were blocking calls? (I’ll cut Cleland slack for not predicting my subsequent upping the urgency when Speakeasy’s decision to block these sites indicated that more VOIP providers are going to push this route.)

Now, Cleland has gone after Free Press by claiming that FP does not disclose its funders. As FP puts its annual reports and 990s online, this is a pretty stupid claim. Mind you, while I approve of disclosure, I’m always a big fan for answering substance. I get equally annoyed at my colleagues for acting as if the fact that someone once worked for a telco or takes money from some industry source automatically discredits them without looking at the merits of the argument. But claiming folks are hiding something when they put the information in a fairly accessible place on their webpage is just silly.

I anticipate that the response from Scott (and, inevitably, Brett — whose customers must be used to long ques for service given how much time he spends commenting on my blogs) will boil down to “well, under my definition of what I say your argument is, you are really hypocrite.” Happily, having now raised child up to age 11, and having grown up on Usenet in the 1980’s, I am familiar with this invitation to a meaningless debate whose purpose is to allow the other side to declare victory by continually redefining terms and reserving the right to be the ultimate judge of my conduct. I decline. Likewise, I decline the inevitable “Hah, your declining just proves I am right — you lying hypocrite loser” (I swear I can just write a Brett-bot. Heck, I would think he was a bot if I hadn’t met him). The beauty of the internet is that folks are free to draw their own conclusions.

Which is why skipping the silly ad hominems is probably the best route entirely. But if one does engage in such tactics (and folks on the pro-NN side are sadly just as guilty on occasion), at least try to avoid attacks so easily proven to be factually wrong.

Stay tuned . . . .

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

AT&T Falls Back on “It's All About Google” Strategy

For some years now, the opponents of Network Neutrality have had the same basic fallback strategy: When all else fails, make it about Google. So no surprise that AT&T, in a letter supposedly about the rather technical issue of “traffic pumping” opens with an attack on Google and Net Neutrality. Because if we have learned anything from our national healthcare debate, it is that it is more important to make this about how awful the other side is rather than debate the merits.

More below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Understanding What The Broadband Stimulus Does, and What It Doesn't Try To do.

Not unsurprisingly, we have considerable debate on the merits of the broadband stimulus package, even leaving aside the network neutrality provisions. They range from this NYT article suggesting that building out in rural is a waste and won’t create jobs to Yochai Benkler’s more optimistic piece to my own previous enthusiastic support (here and here). Along the way, we find plenty of folks with a “yes, but –” because it does not address urban builds or competition or network neutrality or other issues in a way they consider satisfactory, and this weakness, from their perspective, makes the whole bill a worthless boondoggle and a multi-billion gift to the incumbents to boot.

I find the claims of those pushing tax credits or opposing the network neutrality conditions that grants will not create any jobs or result in any new broadband uptake, and that conditions on grants will prevent anyone from building these systems, simply not credible. I can only conclude those pushing this line either don’t get outside Washington DC and New York City much or have their own agendas. Otherwise, they should check out my friend Wally Bowen at MAIN and how he and projects like him are creating jobs for network operators and bringing economic opportunity for their communities. But even setting aside such extremes, it should come as no surprise that we see a variety of opinions on what the broadband stimulus does or should do because:

1) We have a set of complex problems;

2) Everyone has a different perspective on the nature of the problem(s).

This makes assessing the cost/benefit difficult, and makes getting the prospect of any consensus of opinion phenomenally unlikely. What constitutes proof for me that this bill (even after the Senate changes) looks to do a lot of good and is therefore worth the cost won’t persuade others who disagree with me on the fundamental nature of what we need to fix.

In the hope of persuading folks, however, I lay out my arguments below on why I think the broadband stimulus is well designed to handle one piece of the very difficult puzzle of deploying a ubiquitous nationwide broadband system that all citizens will use so they can partake of the rich opportunity for civic engagement, economic development, educational opportunities, and new services such as telemedicine (even if they don’t realize they need this yet). Along the way, the stimulus bill gives another nudge (but hardly solves) the question of how to keep the internet open to innovation and “as diverse as human thought.”

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Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | 11 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Noble Cause update: “Kick their ass and take their gas”

The courageous Cindy Sheehan famously asked the coward George W. Bush to tell her what was the “Noble Cause” for which her son Casey had given his life as a soldier in Baghdad. Bush was too cowardly to answer, of course, but over on Eschaton, Atrios the dog-barker has a pithy little post that pretty nearly sums it up, and addresses Harold’s question about citizen and “real” journalism at the same time.

So we’ll spend a hell of a lot of money and lose a lot of lives presiding over an occupation and using our military to provide security for the private security which will be guarding the commercial interests involved in oil extraction.

And since it’s against Village etiquette to suggest that we we are engaged in an imperial colonial adventure, it will be almost impossible to debate the merits of our policies in Iraq or even have a vaguely honest discussion about what those policies are.

Like Atrios, I don’t think the war was about oil alone. It was about Bush’s vanity and sociopathy, the Cheney/Cheney cabal’s lust for war and conquest for the sake of war and conquest, the Cheney/Cheney cabal’s lust for war profits, and the Cheney/Cheney cabal’s hatred of the constitution and the idea of demoncracy. It was fueled by the infantile jingoism of a lazy and kitsch-loving populace and a reasonable admixture of patriotic altruism on the part of some of the troops.

But now it’s about the oil, mostly. And Bush’s vanity, and the Cheney/Cheney-cabal lust for war profits. But mostly it’s about the oil. Possession of which satisfies all the other subgoals.

Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Today on Telecom Mythbusters: FCC Ancillary Authority in Comcast/BitTorrent

Cable gets a lot of mileage out of repeating things over and over until folks believe it’s true. Today on Telecom Mythbusters I’d like to focus on the question of “ancillary” authority and regulating broadband. The cable guys generally circulate two myths about this.

1) Ancillary jurisdiction by the FCC is an exceedingly rare, wacky, way out thing and the fact that net neutrality advocates even want to rely on it shows how way out there and kooky it is.

2) The D.C. Circuit has been busy trimming back ancillary jurisdiction so that it really doesn’t exist anymore. Specifically, the D.C. Cir. 2005 decision in American Library Association v. FCC, 406 F.3d 689 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (and, to a lesser degree, MPAA v. FCC, 309 F.3d 796 (D.C. Cir. 2002) worked some kind of mojo against the expansive grant of power by the Supreme Court in United States v. Southwest Cable, 392 U.S. 157 (1968) and the Supreme Court’s explicit statement in Brand X so that the FCC cannot regulate broadband access and prohibit Comcast from targeting specific applications such as BiTtorrent under ancillary jurisdiction. A sub-myth of this is “Title I cannot be the source of authority on its own.”

Marvin Ammori, General Counsel of Free Press, has written a stunning tour de force rebutting these arguments. The 100+ page filing masterfully traces the FCC’s authority under Title I and in this particular proceeding. But for those who don’t want to read through the whole thing, I will give my own take below.

I must once again warn readers that this will be a breathtakingly dull review of applicable case law, along with an examination of FCC precedents and does not go to the juicier merits of policy (not that I expct this to stop the Brett-bot from his inevitable comments). If you do not find legal minutia fascinating beyond words, if you do not thrill at the discussion of the subtle differences between a “Telecommunications Service Provider” and a “Common Carrier,” then for God’s sake, turn back now! Lest your brain dissolve into tapioca pudding from the awesome power of legal analysis unleashed.

(and for Brett: Blah blah blah evil blah blah Free Press blah blah MAP blah blah Ginger)

Otherwise, to see both myths BUSTED, read more below….

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Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales of the Sausage Factory: Congress Giveth, Congress Taketh Away

Good news: The House Commerce Committee had a hearing on the Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act, which would undo the more obnoxious provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

Bad news: The House Judiciary Committee (which handles intellectual property issues) approved the Fraudulent Online Identity Sanctions Act, a bill to criminalize the use of false information in WHOIS registrations. This wouldn’t be so bad if you weren’t required to divulge a boatload of personal information under the “thick” WHOIS requirements in order to register a domain name. Folks who hate getting beaten up by their governments over free speech issues or just hate the way spammers use the WHOIS database often try to defnd themselves by submitting false information.

More on the merits of the bills below. But also of relevance (and what makes the Sausage Factory so much fun) is to note the difference a change in committee makes.

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