Econoklastic

And Now for D Block

It’s apparent to anyone who has been following the 700 MHz auction that the plan to allocate spectrum for a nationwide public safety network which would allow a private company to deploy the infrastructure and sell access to the network to private users, who could be preempted by public safety users in an emergency, isn’t going to happen. D Block has miserably failed to reach its reserve price for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the apparent bullying of Frontline by the Public Safety Spectrum Trust’s agent Morgan O’Brien which led to Frontline’s withdrawal from the auction.

Fellow Wetmachiner Harold Feld’s trenchant analysis lays out the options for D Block. I have a few things to say on the matter as well.

A national public safety broadband system is a vital national security interest of the United States. The notion of handing vital national security infrastructure over to private enterprise is one of the worst ideas the Bush administration has ever had. It hasn’t worked well in Iraq and it’s a non-starter for D Block. Let’s drive a stake through the heart of the idea that private providers can more efficiently deliver a vital public good than government can. The FCC should simply shelve the D Block proposal until the new Congress is elected.

The new Congress should definitively decide whether a national public safety network is, as the 911 Commission opined, a vital national security need. If so, it should appropriate the funds for the federal government to build and deploy the necessary infrastructure. It’s what Dwight Eisenhower did with the interstate highway system. The 700 MHz auction has already raised nearly twice the projected revenue. Either a national public safety is needed or it isn’t.

Such a federally-built public safety network offers an additional benefit. There is little additional marginal cost to building a network which allows capacity to be used by others while allowing public safety to preempt them during emergencies. Such capacity could be offered at cost to municipalities for community wireless broadband networks. The presence of such a government-owned network would force the major wireless broadband providers to cease redlining rural and inner-city America, closing the digital divide, as well as provide partial reimbursal to the Treasury for the costs of building the network. We would have our third broadband pipe, and it would be a joint federal-state-local asset.

If a national public safety broadband network is needed, we should do it right and the government should build it, or the Democrats and Republicans in Congress should publicly admit that there is no compelling national security need. And if it is built, it should be built with the benefit of all Americans in mind, not just the profits of the corporate greed machine.

Probably won’t happen, for all the reasons Harold cited. But it makes me nostalgic for a visionary like Dwight Eisenhower (and those are words I don’t often utter).

Posted in Econoklastic, General | Also tagged , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

General Exception

How to Steal an Election

There’s been a lot of talk recently about electronic voting machines and the potential for fraud. To bring home just how serious this issue is, the always excellent Ars Technica has a chilling how-to guide on how to steal an election using electronic ballot machines. So simple, even a neocon could do it!

It amazes me how we’ve suddenly gone from a system that, while it may have its faults and has been abused in the past, at least is somewhat open. People would be able to stand at the polls and watch what was going on, and perhaps catch any fraud red-handed. In going to these electronic voting machines that do not leave any sort of audit trail, we have in effect, handed over the security of our democratic institutions to a private company. If we went to the average voter and said “hey, we’d like to hire this company that will collect and tabulate the all of the ballots in our election. You won’t be able to see what goes on within their company… you won’t be able to look at the ballots yourself… you’ll just have to accept whatever they say is the result of the election” I think most people would think it’s a lousy idea.

My ranting about the entire situation after the jump.

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Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", General Exception, My Thoughts Exactly | Tagged | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Quasi-muni wireless for Colorado Springs?

This front page article in today’s Colorado Springs Gazette discusses a proposal for a private company to provide wireless throughout the city. There would be a user fee; it would not be a free service.

This would not be a “Muni wireless” of the kind favored by many of us Wetmechanics, but still, given my recent experiences with Adelphia, (see Wetmachine article below this one (including comments)), I might tend to favor it, on the theory that anything is better than having to rely on the local cable monopoly. Colorado Springs is generally a very conservative town, despite having liberal pockets here and there, and I don’t think a muni wireless would have much chance of passage.

Yesterday’s Gazette carried another front page article about (outrageous?) bonuses paid by the municipal utility company, and the tenor of comments on the Gazette’s website indicates a quasi-religious belief in the virtues of private companies relative to municipalities. And religion is very strong in Colorado Springs.

I would be interested in Harold Feld’s analysis of the proposal for Colorado Springs, and in your comments too-also, even if you are not Harold.

Posted in General, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

General Exception

The War on the Consumer: Congress to Pass Secret DRM Law?

I guess I’ll make this into a reoccurring feature, since everyone seemed to like the last one I did, and it seems we have no end of stupidity from media companies and their hired hands.

So, let’s see what the media companies have been shopping for in Washington. I bet there’s a lot of post-Holidays sales of legislation going on…

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Posted in General, General Exception | Also tagged , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)
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