Tales of the Sausage Factory

Why Do People Hate “Free” So Much?

Watching Chris Anderson on Colbert last night gives me an excuse to write this little blog entry about Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of A Radical Price. Certainly it has stirred up debate, as such notions should. But a number of Anderson’s critics seem positively affronted that anyone could make an argument in favor of “free” as a business model. They react as if Anderson were a cross between an evil genius out to destroy the capitalist system, a charlatan peddling snake oil to the gullible, and an ignorant posseur worthy only of contempt. Mind you, that’s always life in the blogosphere to some degree, but is it really that crazy?

Happily, Tim Lee over at Technology Liberation Front has already written a cogent defense of Anderson’s actual argument. “Free” doesn’t mean everything free everywhere all the time, but it does mean that folks need to rethink traditional business models in light of changing technology and user expectations. Using free to either collect something of value to someone else (such as personal information or an audience) and/or taking the opportunity to “up sell” a premium service (or, as Anderson explained to Colbert, “Fremium”) has worked for many people and businesses.

Indeed, let me go one further on the crazy meter for you. Back at the beginning of the century, someone came up with an even crazier business model than “free.” Looking at new technology, this ignorant young pup adopted the business model of “pay other people to take my stuff.” Now what dumb ass thinks that you could make a living investing lots of money in creating a product, then actually paying people to take it from you. What a moron, right?

The fellow in question was William Paley, who built the CBS network on the model of paying affiliates to take programming. Paley deduced that he could charge advertisers more than enough money to cover the cost of program production and affiliate fees if he could offer advertisers a big enough audience. Meanwhile, a few hours north in New York City, a number of electronics companies (RCA, Westinghouse, and General Electric) were developing a model around cheap content to sell advertising and radios.

So all I am saying, is give free a chance.

Stay tuned . . .

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Why Verizon Should Give Away FIOS Connections and Get People Addicted to Speed.

I just got a postcard from Verizon telling me FIOS will soon be available in my neighborhood. While I’m probably one of the last residential CLEC subscribers in the United States, I’m a firm believer in the idea that fiber is better and have been waiting for FIOS to become available so I can look at switching.

Then I saw the prices. Yuck. Verizon prices its FIOS as “competitive” with cable and other providers in my region — for a premium service. But it takes more than competitive to get me to go through the hassle of switching, especially when I am reasonably comfortable with my service right now. Switching doesn’t just mean spending several days going through hook up Hell and having Verizon install some super duper power pack on my premises. It also means changing a whole bunch of things tied to my (or my wife’s) current email address. That’s no small deal.

Meanwhile, as everyone knows, the cable operators did better at gaining new broadband customers in Q2, although uptake for broadband was generally anemic. Not surprisingly, Verizon defends its performance on its policy blog. Besides the usual (when you do poorly) inveighing against looking at a single quarter. Verizon points to a number of indicators that its FIOS system is the top dog system in the U.S., with possible top speeds of up to 50 MBPS and usually providing its advertised speed (I love that as a selling point!). Still, analysts argue that Verizon is pricing itself out of the market, and should go back to DSL.

I have a different take. I think VZ needs to get people addicted to speed.

More below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Censorship — Ur Doin It Wrong. And That's Why A Mandatory Filiter For AWS-3 is a BAD IDEA!

I am, of course, the last person in the world to tell other people what they should or shouldn’t advocate for and how they should or shouldn’t filter themselves. Thus, I have no quarrel with the decision of the American Family Association and how they choose to display the news (provided they comply with all relevant laws pertaining to copyright, defamation, etc.) True, I most vehemently disagree with their choice of “pro-family” agenda. I personally think families will benefit more from resolving the pay gap, better laws on paternity leave, and family friendly work policies than focusing on the behavior of consenting adults. But hey, that’s what the First Amendment is all about, so we can have these debates.

So the fact that AFA apparently thinks “gay” is too nice a word and has its news reader automatically replace it with the word “homosexual” does not raise any issues for me — I’m even willing to defend this as a fair use alteration of the text for political speech. But as the good folks at People for the American Way noted (and captured on their own website — ain’t the First Amendment grand?) it can have some humorous and unintended consequences. In this case, the accidental “furtherance of the homosexual agenda” by substituting the word “homosexual” for the proper last name “Gay,” which is a problem now that “Tyson Homosexual” is breaking speed records. Man, I always knew Homosexual could run the distance! What champion.

This would merely be an amusing little anecdote were it not for the fact that the FCC has proposed mandatory network-based indecency filtering as part of the AWS-3/M2Z proposal now out for public comment. For those just tuning in, this is the proposal to create a the equivalent of a free wireless DSL line supported by advertising and a premium service the FCC has out on public notice (comments due July 9).

I promise to try to get a much longer post out on the AWS-3 proposal, but let me focus for a minute on the mandatory filtering (which is not mentioned in the text of the FCC Notice, you have to actually read through the rules). As we can see from this relatively harmless example, filtering is a blunt instrument that often does more harm than good. Even with the increase in computational power from Moore’s Law, blah, blah, no automated filtering system can even come close to making the sort of contextualized judgments of what constitutes indecency that the Constitution demands. Heck, even human beings can’t agree on what makes something indecent and what makes it art. Whenever social networking sites or search engines or whatever get pressured into breaking out the broom in the name of the children, it invariably wipes out cancer support groups, rape survivor groups, and a bunch of unrelated stuff like chess.

And the FCC wants to require that the free network, accessible to every American, will also judge whether a future headline such as “Gay Doping?” is a discussion of a possible Olympic sports scandal or an advertisement for a same-sex rave?

I can laugh about the American Family Association and their personal filter follies that harm no one but those who chose to use their news service. But I shudder to think this may be the fate of our national broadband safety net.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Censorship Public and Private, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | 6 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Wyden Introduces Net Neutrality

Wyden (D-Ore) has pushed back against the wussiness of the Enisgn (R-NV) bill. The Ensign Bill has a provision that would require “neuterednet neutrality.” The broadband access provider could still favor its own content and could offer “premium” service to others.

The Wyden “Internet Non-Discrimination Act of 2006” requires real Net neutrality and has a serious enforcement mechanism. If the FCC sits on a complaint, it is deemed granted in 90 days.

Of course I’m partial to the Wyden bill from shear vanity. The bill references the muni broadband paper I wrote last year in the legislative findings.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

What the $#@! is the “Public” Internet

So here I am, at one of these DC discussion fests between “stakeholders” on “network neutrality.” Net neutrality is what we talk about post Brand X . It means the provider can’t mess with the packets (other than to screen malware or engage in network management). Needless to say, the incumbent wireline providers are not happy with this thought, while all the time proclaiming they will never, ever mess with content.

So what incumbents float instead is the concept of providing “enhanced service” to those with content who will pay extra to be given “priority” to the broadband provider’s subscribers. (“Hey, nice packets you got there. Be a shame if anything . . . happened to them on the way to the customer. But good news. We’re here to offer you a ‘premium’ service that gaurantees you speedy delivery! I suppose I shouldn’t mention this, but your competitor has already signed up . . .”)

This is being justified, in part, as offering premium service on the “private internet” as opposed to the “public interent.”

What the #$@! is a “public internet?” Unless there is some remnant of the NSF backbone out there, or we’re talking about the government funded root servers, there is no such thing as a “public” internet and never was. “The Internet” (back when everyone always used to capitalize it) is a “network of networks” which, since the mid-1990s, have been private networks.

So why are wireline incumbents pushing the “public internet” meme? See below . . .

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