Tales of the Sausage Factory

A Quick Addendum To My AWS-2/AWS-3 Prediction

Last week, I predicted the FCC would opt to auction the AWs-2/AWS-3 spectrum rather than adopt the M2Z proposal. Yesterday, the FCC issued it’s teaser for recommendations to improve broadband adoption. One of these was “[c]onsider use of spectrum for a free or very low cost wireless broadband service.”

That, of course, was M2Z’s chief selling point. They would provide a free tier for for everyone supported by adds and by the higher-speed, ad free pay tier. So do I want to revise my prediction on whether the FCC will adopt the M2Z or T-Mobile asymmetric auction proposal?

Not at this point. Sure, this tea leaf looks much more favorable to M2Z than it does to T-Mobile. But I note two things. First, the language says “consider” rather than simply “use.” The question of whether to require free service of some kind as a public interest obligation was teed up in the pending AWS-2/AWS-3 proceeding. If they were going to go with M2Z, they wouldn’t say “consider,” they’d say “use spectrum . . . .” Second, there are a number of other ways to use spectrum for free or low cost wireless. These range from expanding the use of unlicensed spectrum to facilitate creation of community wireless networks to mandating “wireless lifeline”-type programs that would require all carriers to offer cheap or free access on a needs basis. It also remains to be seen whether the FCC will actually do anything other than “consider” such an approach, or whether revenue concerns and incumbent resistance will ultimately carry the day.

So while I’m pleased to see the FCC looking at spectrum from a public interest/public welfare perspective, I’m not changing my bet on how the FCC resolves the AWS-2/AWS-3 band fight. The real questions are (a) timetable, and (b) spectrum caps, yes/no? (and no, I haven’t forgotten about Fred Campbell’s standing invite/challenge for me to justify spectrum caps generally, just haven’t gotten time yet). The FCC could conceivably issue an Order with service rules and schedule an auction date. Or it could put out a final set of rules for further notice. My personal bet is thy will move quickly — both to show they are taking action and because OMB would really like to book that revenue. But we’ll have to see.

Heck, I could be entirely wrong in my prediction and they could go with M2Z, or some variant thereof. Stranger things have been known to occur.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Now Associated Press Has A Plan So Cunning Even They Don't Know How It Works. (Updated)

It seems every now and then I see some company or organization that finds itself challenged by the fact that the internet gives people lots of interesting alternatives and thus upsets traditional business models. This prompts said company to flail around for a bit, denouncing how piracy or whatever is unfairly destroying it, then announcing some stunning new proposal or plan that lashes out at this supposed piracy. Usually, since the problem is not “piracy” but “competition,” this plan makes no sense whatsoever.

As I noted previously, the newspaper industry generally is flailing around and proposing all kinds of foolish things rather than figuring out how to adapt and thrive in new market realities where people and advertisers have a very different set of choices and the days of 20% profit margins are gone. The Associated Press is the latest organization to jump off the deep end. AP believes that by setting up a “beacon” system for its content it can require everyone “stealing” its content to pay royalty fees.

There are several problems with this scheme. First, the article does not make clear whether it tries to cover linking as “using content” for free. I’m not sure that it could, nor does it make sense given their theory of “piracy.” If I link to an AP story, I haven’t copied anything and clicking the link actually brings people to the content — the desired result from AP’s perspective. Nor can the AP prevent me from describing an AP story even without a link. Heck, many of my local radio stations do this with my local newspapers, simply summarizing articles with an attribution. So if the object is to prevent people from linking to AP articles, or discussing AP articles (the “free ride” that so incenses the traditional news media and its defenders), this proposal really doesn’t seem likely to help.

The AP can prevent wholesale copying of its articles where the amount copies exceeds fair use. But, as the article linked to above points out, the AP already uses software to do this. The new system may make it easier to license AP works (a result I would heartily support — AP should use technology to make it easier to monetize its content with license fees for reprints), but the description seems to go well beyond that. Either I am dramatically underestimating the number of websites that reproduce significant amounts of AP content over and above linking and simple descriptions of stories (which is certainly possible), or the technology dramatically lowers the transaction cost of licensing content and thus makes collection of license fees easier, or this fails to strike at the real root of the problem — people have lots more options for news.

Ultimately, it is this last point that has me scratching my head about how the AP expects this to work. If the AP locks up its content, I can find lots of other news content. True, AP might be “better” — although modern reporting leaves me dubious. But the ability to access, debate and discuss news far outweighs any marginal superiority in quality AP can claim over other outlets (which include many traditional news outlets with high quality reporting) that provide accessibility.

There is a delightful historic irony here, in that AP was to some extent the product of the last revolution in telecommunications. Ubiquitous telegraph service made it possible for small news organizations to have the same reporter resources as larger operations by sharing costs among their members and leveraging local reporters. Finally, papers in small towns and on the frontier could run the same stories as the NY Times or the London Telegraph, reporting news from around the world thanks to a global communications network. Larger papers, which had traditionally held a huge advantage from their superior ability to send reporters to distant sources of news and receive faster reports, found they had to join the AP themselves or risk missing important stories covered by the AP’s superior network of on the ground reporters already present as news developed.

AP should learn from its own past and adapt to the future, rather than trying to fight the future and cling to the past. AP and other news media need to work on how to leverage the advantages of a global communications network that allows for distribution of news reporting resources rather than chasing phantom “pirate” gold.

Stay tuned . . . .

Update: This article in Columbia Journalism Review clarifies that the intent is to go after those who are doing wholesale copying, rather than those linking or quoting. As I said above, good for them. I hope that the program in question actually provides some data on how widespread this practice really is. Given the tools that already exist to find direct copying, I’m not sure how this new beaconing adds value.

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Full text of statment from Jim Ciconni on Martin’s Plan for the 700 MHz Auction

For my analysis, see here. Text reproduced below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Open Access Included in Spectrum Notice! Fish In Trees! Rivers Running Uphill!

Yesterday, I wrote, with regard to whether the FCC’s Further Notice on the 700 MHz Spectrum Auction would include questions on our open access proposal:

I think our chances of moving forward to the next round are pretty close to zero. OTOH, I live from day-to-day in the hope of pleasant surprises.

Apparently, I live another day. And so does the open access proposal. As explained by Gigi Sohn, we live to fight another day.

It was a wild meeting. Pushed back from 9:30 to 10:30, then pushed off again until 6:45 p.m. The contentious issue was, as predicted, license size. Apparently, McDowell teamed with the Ds to make sure the Further Notice requested comment on a mix of licenses and not just the large licenses that Martin wanted.

The Order is not yet out, so I can’t really assess yet what the results are. Heck, they don’t even have all the seperate statements up yet. Here are links to the news release, Chairman Martin’s statement (expressing disappointment over the license size issue), Commissioner Adestein’s statement (with a shout out to the public interest coalition!), and Commissioner McDowell’s statement (which basically says “I know I’m the swing vote, but I need to catch up on the comments because I’ve been out with my new kid”).

But whatever happens, I gotta give a shout out to Martin for being willing to put the open access question out there and have it debated. Yes, all credit to the Ds. But I don’t believe we would be positioned to have the discussion about wireless open access if Martin had been dead set against it.

Off to bed. It’s been a day.

Stay tuned . . . .

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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)

Inventing the Future

Inventing the Future: Secure Persistent Objects, Take 0

From the day I first read about Croquet, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the secure, persistent object model. Building applications — or even understanding what applications can be built — depends on this model, which is still under development by the Croquet architects. Four months later, I’m still pretty lost.

I’m most interested in how the pieces fit together, and the abilities afforded by that configuration. Alas, I’m not clever enough to understand and express this entirely in the abstract. The more specific I get in components and abilities, the more specific I need to be as to a plausible way of implementing it. Otherwise, I get lost. I hope (unrealistically?) that no one takes this as a proposal. In fact, I’d be perfectly happy if the same abilities were achieved for Croquet with different implementations. I’d even be ok with a different set of abilities, as long as I understood what and why they were. But I gotta start somewhere. This is public because I would like help in improving my understanding, and also because my blog is from me personally. It does not represent anything from U.Wisconsin or the Croquet architects. Maybe by putting even wrong stuff into print, we can clear up misconceptions.

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales of the Sausage Factory: Good FCC Order on Unlicensed Released

The FCC has now released the Order it published last week on allowing higher power outputs for “smart antennas.” A copy of the Order in word is available here, and pdf here. My extremely limited analysis below. Headline version: the FCC sidestepped some bad ideas and the order will generally improve the ability of equipment manufacturers and network providers to use unlicensed spectrum more efficiently and at slightly higher powers in existing bands. So call it a good day at the FCC.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales of the Sausage Factory: When Good FCC Proceedings Go Bad

I’m getting rather worried as I gear up for two major FCC proceedings that are supposed to be good proceedings for unlicensed spectrum access. Et Docket No. 04-151 proposes opening the 3650–3700 MHz band to unlicensed spectrum (proposed rules in pdf here). The other, ET Docket No. 04-186 proposes opening the broadcast bands to unlicensed spectrum access (proposed rules in pdf here). What could be wrong? See below. I sure hope someone other than me shows up to comment . . .

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